By Sophia A. Rodriguez
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
The University of the Incarnate Word is preparing for interim leadership while Dr. Lou J. Agnese Jr., president since 1985, takes a six-month sabbatical.
Agnese has decided to leave in January for a personal sabbatical with his wife, Mickey, who has been recovering from liver disease. He said he feels this is the time he needs to give his wife – they’ve been married 40 years — the undivided attention they both deserve.
During his time off, he will leave Dr. Denise Doyle, UIW’s chancellor, and his recently named chief of staff, Vincent Rodriguez, in charge. Doyle joined UIW in 1988. Rodriguez, a former journalist, has been Agnese’s assistant to the president for communications since 2000.
When Agnese was named president at the age of 34, he was one of the youngest university presidents in the nation. Through his leadership, UIW has grown from 1,200 students to more than 10,000 students spread over different campuses and online. He said he has built positive relationships on behalf of the university, which has helped support, its growth, including plans for a medical school opening in 2016.
The Agneses plan to embark on a journey around the world on a luxurious cruise line, spending 121 days at sea and spending time with friends and family. He said he looks forward to meeting people on this trip in hopes of discovering opportunities for the university as well. However, he emphasized his first priority is his wife and making sure they celebrate their anniversary without business pulling him away.
It’s the second sabbatical for Agnese since he joined 1985. In 1990, he took two and a half months off for a cruise to self-reflect on his plans as president. He claims it was necessary due to five intense years of working 24/7. He said he feels the sabbatical in 1990 was extremely valuable and helped solidify his commitment to the university.
Agnese said he is confident in the leadership in his absence. He plans to remain in contact with them weekly while he’s away.
“We have a great executive team,” Agnese said. “I am not concerned in their capabilities while I am gone.”
Agnese, a first-generation college student himself whose parents immigrated to the United States, said the leadership will stay true to the mission and promote a culturally diverse, faith-based campus as he has done.
The president said he hopes to have positive impact on every student he comes into contact with at UIW. Annually, he hosts the “President’s Spaghetti Dinner” – this year’s is on Nov. 20 – for students where he prepares his family’s secret sauce.
“The students are what keep me here,” Agnese said.
For Agnese, shaking a graduate’s hand at commencement is a big moment for him and he wishes he could be here in May for that one. To make up for it, he plans to hold a special reception in June for graduates who would like to take a photo with him.
“I will sadly miss the May 2014 graduation,” Agnese said. “I haven’t missed one in 29 years.”