Fr. Charles Bouchard, O.P., announced Monday he would resign as president of Aquinas Institute of Theology effective Jan. 1, 2008. He has been president since 1989.
Bouchard has led the school during 17 years of unprecedented growth—from 101 in 1989 to about 300 today. During his tenure, the school has met several critical church needs, including educating health care executives in roles formerly held by vowed religious women so they can maintain the tradition of Catholic health care.
The growth led to a bold move this year, when Aquinas Institute left its building on the campus of Saint Louis University and more than doubled its space with a move into a newly restored, century-old factory in Midtown.
Bouchard’s successor will be named in April. The next president will be a Dominican priest from the body of priests who represent the Midwest region of the United States. While the school educates Catholic laypeople, vowed religious and Christians from other faith traditions, its fundamental purpose is to prepare Dominican priesthood candidates. The bylaws of the school demand that the president be a Dominican priest.
Fr. Michael Mascari, O.P., who manages all aspects of the Midwest region of Dominicans, will oversee the selection process of the next president. It will be essential, he said, that the new president maintains the character and mission of the school.
Bouchard plans to go on sabbatical in early 2008 and consider his future. He said he chose now to resign for three reasons. First, when he departs in 2008, he will have completed his 18th year in the position—a job he assumed when he was 37. Simply put, he wants to try something new. Second, the school has a reputation as an innovative, even trend-setting, institution, and Bouchard believes a new president will bring the fresh ideas to maintain that reputation. Finally, the region from which the next president will be named has an especially strong roster of candidates from which to choose.
“Aquinas Institute has been blessed by Fr. Bouchard’s guidance for 18 years,” said attorney John Gillis, chairman of the board of trustees for the school. “Under his leadership, the school has grown from a small, little known institution to a thriving graduate theology school educating priests, religious and lay Catholics for meaningful roles in the Church. Through his drive to make Aquinas Institute relevant in a changing environment, the school has developed innovative programs for laypeople with leadership positions in the Church and in Church-sponsored institutions. He will leave Aquinas Institute a much stronger place than the one he first led in 1989.”
Aquinas Institute is a Roman Catholic graduate school of theology in Midtown St. Louis where priesthood candidates study alongside vowed religious women and men and laypeople pursuing careers in the Catholic Church or simply seeking to better understand their faith lives.