Students find new schools, but jobs scarce for former St. Gregory’s University faculty

SHAWNEE — Eight weeks after the announced closure of St. Gregory’s University, many displaced students have enrolled at new schools, but the spring semester outlook is much bleaker for the former faculty.

Michael Scaperlanda, president of the liberal arts college when it closed last month, said many students have transferred to the University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma Baptist University. Others, who wanted to continue a Benedictine liberal arts education, have enrolled at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, he said.

“The students, I think, are well placed,” Scaperlanda said. “They seem pretty happy with these decisions.”

In its final semester, SGU had 656 degree-seeking students, said Theresa Bragg, who was executive assistant to the president. Some completed their degree requirements and graduated Dec. 1, but most will have to continue their education elsewhere.

Bragg said representatives from 65 colleges came to campus for transfer fairs following the Nov. 8 announcement that the university no longer could afford to sustain operations.

“All the institutions in Oklahoma were good,” she said. Oklahoma Baptist University, located nearby, stepped up as the record depository for St. Gregory’s. SGU transcripts are available through the registrar’s office at OBU.

“They were very, very gracious with helping us out with a lot of things, especially those records,” Bragg said.

Faculty struggles

Scaperlanda said most of the SGU staff have found new jobs, but “it’s more difficult” for the 38 faculty members.

The window to find a new teaching position was short and colleges don’t normally hire faculty at this time of year, Scaperlanda said.

“Some have cobbled together adjunct jobs for the spring,” he said, but hiring in general is down in higher education.

Bragg said a few members of the faculty retired and “a few are getting out of higher education.”

Faculty will receive their pension funds, but they did not receive severance pay, Scaperlanda said.

“Unfortunately, we were so out of money we couldn’t provide anything,” he said.

A GoFundMe page started by students raised $13,320 to help faculty and staff at Christmas. Houston senior Duncan Tiemeyer, president of the student body, posted thanks to the 85 donors and reported $400 gift cards were being distributed to employees.

The monks of St. Gregory’s Abbey contributed $1,750 to the cause. The Rev. Lawrence Stasyszen, abbot and chancellor, wrote, “In addition to our continued prayers, we gratefully offer the salary that the monastery received for a course taught by one of the monks.”

One monk was a full-time professor and a couple others taught one course, Bragg said.

She is working at the abbey temporarily as executive assistant to Brother Damian Whalen, who was named executive administrator of the university until all business is finalized.

Bragg said the university and the abbey had many shared services, from internet to food service, which have to be addressed. She expects her work will wrap up in 90 days, but issues with the property and debts will take longer.

Established in 1875, St. Gregory’s was Oklahoma’s only Catholic university.