Last updated: February 16. 2013 10:32PM - 291 Views

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AS WILKES University's new president, Patrick F. Leahy aims to make the institution bigger (if only slightly) and a bona fide good neighbor that supports its host city's ongoing revival.

Sounds encouraging to us, as it should to Greater Wilkes-Barre residents, faculty and alumni.

Leahy left us convinced that he truly admires the university's standing today and is enthusiastic about what comes next. Wilkes' sixth president recently spoke with staffers at The Times Leader, touching on these and other topics.

• City revitalization. As a small, private university tucked in an urban setting, Wilkes has "an obligation" to promote the surrounding city's progress.

Among the possible strategies: Dispatch student volunteers to assist with community-enhancing projects. Although this isn't a new notion, perhaps the university could be "more intentional" in which projects its students participate, Leahy suggested. He also foresees students and faculty, especially those in the university's business school, providing expertise and talent for small business recruitment and startup in the city.

• The River Common. Considering the campus' proximity to the Susquehanna River, and the multimillion-dollar riverfront project, Wilkes can further promote the park's use. Look for it to get more involved, perhaps in collaboration with King's College, in programming arts events and other activities at the outdoor venue.

• The "mansions." Leahy recognizes the appeal of the university's mix of modern buildings and historic homes. That said, he knows that an older structure often has limitations; if a mansion one day no longer suits the university's needs, it would seek only a reputable buyer whose intent was something other than to create cheap student housing.

• Enrollment. Leahy, formerly of The University of Scranton, sees room to modestly boost undergrad enrollment beyond the 2,200 mark, while also better identifying the kind of students who will succeed as Wilkes Colonels. (Note to anyone worried about drawing too many teens and 20-somethings – and their vehicles – to South Wilkes-Barre: Online teaching, especially at the graduate level, allows an institution to reach more students without compelling them to be at a campus.)

On Sept. 15, Leahy will outline his broader vision for Wilkes University during his formal installation ceremony. Here's hoping that many, many years from now Leahy can reflect on his days at Wilkes, noting his accomplishments have matched his ambitions.

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