Thomas Mengler to retire at the 12-year mark of his tenure as St. Mary’s University president

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Anchored on the city’s West Side, St. Mary's University is a beacon of opportunity. A record-breaking campaign will strengthen efforts.

Anchored on the city’s West Side, St. Mary's University is a beacon of opportunity. A record-breaking campaign will strengthen efforts.

JERRY LARA / San Antonio Express-News

St. Mary’s University President Thomas Mengler announced he is heading into his last year leading the institution as he plans to retire at the end of May 2024, the 12-year mark of his tenure leading the Catholic Marianist institution.  

“In my 11th year as President, I believe that it is now time to begin the process of handing off my role to the next president, who will bring new vision and imagination,” Mengler said in an announcement letter.  

While proud of the institution’s ability to maintain its mission, values, and purpose since its origins 170 years ago, Mengler said he believes the university must also keep evolving.  

“We are an unfinished work in progress, prepared to adapt to the goals of the next generation of St. Mary’s men and women, who in strategic and creative ways look to advance the efforts of their predecessors,” he wrote.  

Mengler joined St. Mary’s University on June 1, 2012, becoming the institution’s 13th president. Before moving to San Antonio, he served as dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minn., and as dean of The College of Law at the University of Illinois and the university’s provost and vice chancellor.

The president announced his decision to the St. Mary’s board of trustees on Friday and said the board will soon form a nominating committee to begin a search for his replacement.

In 2017 Mengler launched the Defining Moment Comprehensive Campaign with a goal of raising $130 million for scholarships, professorships, facilities improvements, new programs and research at St. Mary’s. The campaign closed last March, having reached $165 million.

The president is also one of many education leaders in the region to deal with the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath.

The number of students at the small, private university has dropped from about 3,500 in the fall of 2019 to 3,253 in the fall of 2022. Across San Antonio, private institutions have struggled more than larger public colleges and universities to regain enrollment losses.  

This might be one of the many to-dos on Mengler’s list for his final 17 months as leader of St. Mary’s.  

“We feel blessed to have been able to foster with you the St. Mary’s culture of excellence, to deepen with you our Catholic and Marianist character, to develop through our alumni’s generosity significant long-term resources for St. Mary’s, and to foster our faculty and staff’s dedication to educating

our students for lives of purposeful leadership grounded in their faith in God,” Mengler said in the letter. 
“I look forward to continuing to advance these goals in the coming months. God bless you and your families,” he continued.; @DanyaPH