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Seton Hill University announces death of former president JoAnne Boyle

Rich Cholodofsky
| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 2:30 p.m.
JoAnne Boyle, 78, of Laughlintown died on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. She retired in June after more than 25 years at the helm of Seton Hill University.
JoAnne Boyle, 78, of Laughlintown died on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. She retired in June after more than 25 years at the helm of Seton Hill University.

JoAnne Boyle's tenure at Seton Hill University in Greensburg was all about change.

The university's former president helped to transform the small Catholic college for women on the hill above Greensburg into a coeducational university that hosted international luminaries and altered the landscape of the city.

Boyle, 78, of Laughlintown, who served as university president for more than 25 years before her retirement in June, died late Friday in UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh.

Bibiana Boerio, the university's interim president, announced Boyle's death in an email sent to students shortly after noon on Saturday.

“It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the death of our beloved President Emerita JoAnne Boyle,” Boerio wrote.

Michele Ridge, the chairwoman of Seton Hill's board of trustees, praised Boyle's stewardship of the university.

“Because of her leadership, Seton Hill experienced an incredible transformation from a small women's undergraduate college to a coeducational university with an enrollment of more than 2,500 students,” Ridge said in a statement.

“She worked diligently to strengthen the university's academic and financial foundations and led Seton Hill forward by focusing campus resources on programs, faculty, key personnel and facilities that positioned the university as an educational leader in the nation,” she said.

Boyle was a 1957 Seton Hill graduate who held a Master of Arts degree in teaching from Harvard University and a doctorate in English literature from the University of Pittsburgh. She returned to her alma mater to teach English and later served as a department chair.

In 1987, Boyle became president of the school, which then had an enrollment of 800 students.

In 2002, Boyle opened the university to men. A year later, the college became a university.

Seton Hill's enrollment now stands at 2,500 students. It offers more than 80 undergraduate programs and 10 graduate programs, which were implemented under Boyle.

“Since taking office, Dr. Boyle has made great advancements in allowing men like me to attend Seton Hill University. If it weren't for her, I wouldn't be able to attend the university that I love so much. She will be an inspiration for progress throughout the ages,” said senior Charles Kirkland, 22, a business administration/education major from Derry Township.

Boyle helped to bring the school into downtown Greensburg with the construction of a $21 million Performing Arts Center. In July, the school broke ground for a visual arts center in the city.

Under her leadership, the school established the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine on campus, the physician assistant program and the Center for Orthodontics. It equips all students with iPads.

Last month, university officials named the school's health sciences center to be built on campus the JoAnne Woodyard Boyle Health Sciences Center. Boyle was in ill health and did not attend the ground breaking ceremony.

In an interview with the Tribune-Review in January, Boyle talked about how much she enjoyed working at her school.

“What I'm going to miss the most is the excitement of every single day when you really don't know what's going to be on the agenda,” Boyle said. “It's what comes in over the transom that's surprising, unexpected, but that keeps the job so interesting.”

Her leadership expanded Seton Hill's footprint, said former mayor Karl Eisaman.

“She was truly a great person,” Eisaman said. “I was very fortunate and the city of Greensburg was very fortunate we shared the same vision of Seton Hill expanding. She was truly a remarkable lady.”

In a statement, Bishop Lawrence E. Brant of the Greensburg Diocese expressed sympathy to Boyle's family.

“We assure the Boyle family of our prayers that the Lord give Dr. Boyle the reward of her goodness. Our sympathy and prayerful remembrance likewise go out to the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill and the faculty, administration, alumni and students of the Seton Hill University community,” the statement said.

“Under Dr. Boyle's 25 years of leadership as president, this Catholic, liberal arts university has grown in both its scope and service to the community and the region following in the rich tradition of faith and academic excellence established by its founders, the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill,” Brandt said.

Boyle was born in White Plains, N.Y., a daughter of the late George Gordon Woodyard and Josephine Tschinkel Woodyard.

Boyle served as board chairwoman of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania and was a trustee of the University of Pittsburgh.

She is survived by her husband, Arthur J. Boyle Jr. and seven children: Arthur J. Boyle III of Greensburg; Brendan Patrick Boyle of Rices Landing; John W. Boyle and wife Sheri of Greensburg; Elizabeth Boyle McDonald and husband Sean of Pittsburgh; Terence Boyle and wife Shari of Finleyville; Teig Boyle and wife Patricia of Hershey; and Morgan Boyle of California, Pa.

She is survived by 14 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, her daughter-in-law Kim Boyle of Greensburg; sister Nancy Chilcoat of Stone Mountain, Ga.; brother George Gordon Woodyard Jr. of Vallejo, Calif.; and several nieces and nephews.

Visitation will be held in the parlors on the second floor of the administration building at Seton Hill University from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday and from 2 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

A funeral Mass will be held in St. Joseph Chapel at Seton Hill at 11 a.m. on Wednesday with Msgr. David Rubino officiating.

Private interment will follow the service at the Sisters of Charity Cemetery at Seton Hill. Pantalone Funeral Home Inc. is in charge of arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Seton Hill University Reeves Library or to the JoAnne Woodyard Boyle Health Sciences Center. Funeral arrangements are being made by Pantalone Funeral Home Inc. in Greensburg.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293.

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