Welcome home, Fr. Rewak

Welcome home, Fr. Rewak
Poet in the garden: Chancellor William Rewak, S.J. Photo by Charles Barry.
SCU’s poet-president returns to the Mission Campus as chancellor.

The first time that William Rewak, S.J., taught English at SCU was in 1970 and it was baptism by fire: sit-ins and classroom lockouts and Vietnam War protests—and he wondered, with some misgivings, Is this what teaching college means? He served as rector of the Jesuit community and oversaw the move of his fellow Jesuits from St. Joseph’s Hall into Nobili Hall. Then, as the University’s 26th president—and the first chosen by SCU’s Board of Trustees—he led the Santa Clara community for a dozen years, 1976–88.

Fr. Rewak has traveled far and wide since then, but this August he returned as chancellor of Santa Clara University. In his new role, he assists President Michael Engh, S.J., in vital areas, including civic engagement, fundraising, community outreach, and ceremonial events. He also heads a newly established Council of Trustee Emeriti, a board comprising former, honored trustees who will continue to serve and provide counsel to SCU.

What he built

As president, Fr. Rewak oversaw the creation of nearly a score of endowed professorships and headed up the largest fundraising campaign ever undertaken by a Catholic university in the West, ultimately boosting Santa Clara’s endowment from $11 million to nearly $80 million. The student body grew more diverse geographically and ethnically, and Fr. Rewak let it be known that Santa Clara would be the preeminent Catholic university in the West. The Bannan Engineering Building was built and renovation, expansion, and construction of at least eight more facilities completed. He embarked on a project long desired—rerouting The Alameda to unite the campus, which required an unprecedented collaboration of city, state, and University.

“We are here for that human interchange where wisdom is born, to serve intellect and to touch the human heart.”

He launched a series of institutes on campus to examine issues of War and Conscience, The Family, Poverty and Conscience, Technology and Society, and The Constitution. He also made time to teach a weekly poetry seminar for engineers. And, in a decision near and dear to us, he enlisted a talented editor by the name of Peg Major to helm a new publication in September 1981: Santa Clara Magazine. He wrote in the pages of that first issue, 30 years ago: “We are here for that human interchange where wisdom is born, to serve intellect and to touch the human heart.”

The route

Fr. Rewak was appointed chancellor of SCU once before, in 1989, following his presidency and after a year of research and writing at Harvard. But he served as chancellor for only a few months before being tapped to fill in for the unexpectedly ill president of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. He led Spring Hill until 1997, served as director of the Jesuit Retreat House in Los Altos to 2005, and through last year served as minister of the Jesuit Community at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he also taught poetry.

Regarding his new role, Fr. Rewak says, “The challenge for all of us will be to imagine Santa Clara’s future as one of a continuing high achievement and a profound dedication to serving a world that needs a spirit of selflessness.”

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