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Univ. of Mobile’s new president: Mark Foley, New Orleans exec. v.p.

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–The University of Mobile’s board of trustees unanimously elected a new president of the Alabama Baptist college Feb. 13: Mark R. Foley, executive vice president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Foley, 47, succeeds Michael Magnoli, whose 13-year presidency of the 2,700-student university was ended by the 46- member trustee body May 13 of last year.
Foley, who assumes his new post March 2, was appointed executive vice president of New Orleans Seminary by President Chuck Kelley in March 1997 following approval from trustees.
As the seminary’s executive vice president, Foley acted as an administrative facilitator for the president in such areas as institutional effectiveness and denominational and community relations.
In the spring of 1997, Foley helped form a merchant’s association, for which he was elected chariman, of businesses in the seminary-area Gentilly/Chef Menteur Highway corridor. The Gentilly Partnership Foundation is working with the mayor’s office to enhance the area and increase interest consumer interest.
Foley, an 11-year staff member of the seminary, was named interim dean of the graduate faculty in October 1996, having served as vice president for student development and institutional research and planning since January 1993, when he also was elected as an assistant professor of psychology and counseling.
He also has worked as director of student relations, 1991-92; director of financial aid and student development, 1988-91; and a development officer, 1987-88. He is a member of First Baptist Church, New Orleans.
Kelley described Foley as “a man of integrity, vision and discipline. The University of Mobile family will find him to be a man who keeps his promises, acts decisively and models servant leadership. I cannot imagine anyone better prepared to take the helm for both the present and the future of the University of Mobile.”
Before coming to the seminary, Foley was a business owner/operator in Wichita Falls, Texas, from 1972-86.
The departure of Magnoli, who had two years remaining in his contract, was hastened by a debt crisis revealed in March 1997 of more than $3.6 million.
The University of Mobile also operates a branch campus in Nicaragua, which sparked controversy within the Alabama convention over funding procedures. In 1994, messengers to the annual Alabama Baptist state convention affirmed a convention- university agreement limiting financial support of the university’s Latin American Branch Campus in Nicaragua to gifts specifically generated for that campus and funds generated from that campus. Another part of the agreement required trustees to return to the Mobile campus about $2.3 million used to initiate the branch campus in 1993. Trustees later acknowledged, however, Mobile investments in Nicaragua had grown by $1 million to more than $3.3 million.
Currently, the university is working with the Alabama convention in a plan for recovering all convention funds used for the Nicaragua campus. Last year, the convention gave the university more than $2 million of its $32 million Cooperative Program budget.
And the university’s accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is in a second year of probation.
During Magnoli’s 13-year tenure, enrollment nearly quadrupled and several new facilities were added to the campus.
Foley is a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, and a 1972 graduate of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, with a bachelor of business administration degree. He completed two degrees at New Orleans Seminary, the master of divinity degree in 1989 and the doctor of philosophy degree in 1992, specializing in psychology and counseling. He is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Louisiana and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Denominationally, in 1996 he was named by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Interagency Council to serve on the Racial Reconciliation Task Force.
Foley is married to the former Marilyn Hardeman, also of Wichita Falls, Texas. They have two children: Molly, 20, and Rob, 17.
Magnoli, 50 at the time of his dismissal, was a member of the university’s first graduating class in 1967 who joined the staff four years later as director of development and in 1991 was named vice president for development. He assumed the presidency in 1984 after the retirement of the university’s founding president and current chancellor, William Weaver Jr.
Foley, in an interview with the Mobile Register published Feb. 13, said he envisions a student-oriented University of Mobile mission statement “that is specific concerning how a Christian university can change the world through men and women graduates who have these qualities and take them into the world:”
1) “students who are developing spiritually;”
2) “students who are prepared academically;”
3) “students who are responsible socially;” and
4) “students who are equipped technologically.”
Foley said he intends for prospective employers of the university’s graduates to see “that these men and women are persons who have the will and the ability to act on decisions consistent with the nature and ethic of Jesus Christ: that they are good, solid, moral and ethical persons.”
Of the faculty, he told the newspaper, “I want faculty who understand what spiritual development is about. They must have impeccable academic credentials. They must be interested in the social development of students and in the process of salvation. Now, if you have got those things down, it really is not so important to me where you go to church. But it is important to me what you believe, if you’re going to teach. I don’t call that a litmus test. I call it qualifications.”
Foley said he has reviewed the financial problems the university has faced at both its main campus in Mobile and branch campus in Nicaragua.
Of the Nicaragua campus, he stated, “If the mission of a Christian university is indeed to change the world,” then it would have a future under the Baptist university. “If you can do Christian higher education … there, then you have the opportunity literally to help change a nation over the course of about 20 years. I’m not really talking in evangelical terms as much as I am talking in value-centered terms. That possibility is very exciting to me,” he said.
However, Foley said, “… that must be qualified by a greater principle, that is, financial integrity. Any operation related to the University of Mobile under my administration will operate in the black or it will not operate.”
Foley said he intends to travel to the Nicaragua campus after about two weeks in office.
Of the university’s relationship with the Alabama convention, he acknowledged in the newspaper interview, “… there’s a lot of relationship-building that’s needed in that area. … We have to be open with the Alabama Baptist State Convention. What’s happened in the past breeds a lot of ill will, mistrust and hurt. There is no doubt that there’s a great deal of healing that needs to be done. I intend to win state Baptists’ support for the University of Mobile as a whole through demonstrations of financial integrity.”