University of Detroit Mercy leader to step down after more than 10 years

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Correction: The story has been updated to indicate the number of years that former UDM president the Rev. Gerard Stockhausen served as the school's leader. 

The president of Michigan's oldest Catholic university will step down at the end of the next academic year after more than a decade at the helm.

University of Detroit Mercy president Antoine Garibaldi announced Monday that 2021-22 will be his final year, ending his term as presidency on June 30, 2022.

Garibaldi, the first lay person and first African American leader to head the Catholic university founded by Jesuits in 1877, will take a sabbatical from 2022-23, and will return to the university as a tenured professor in educational psychology.

University of Detroit Mercy president Antoine Garibaldi plans to return after a sabbatical as a tenured professor.

"We have accomplished much together over the last 10 years and two months, and I am energized to achieve even more of our goals over the next 10 months when a successor begins," wrote Garibaldi in a letter to the university community.

Garibaldi, 70, is the 25th president of University of Detroit Mercy, where 5,113 students are enrolled. It has three campuses in Detroit, including its main campus on McNichols. It also has a campus in Novi and offers programs at Macomb University Center in Clinton Township.

University of Detroit and Mercy College of Detroit merged in 1990, and the university has been sponsored by two religious orders long known for their educational mission, the Society of Jesus and Sisters of Mercy.

Reached by phone Monday, Garibaldi said his most significant accomplishment was "the heightened visibility" of the university. 

“This university has been here since 1877 and there were many opportunities when the Jesuits and the Sisters of Mercy could have left Detroit and they didn’t,” said Garibaldi. “I am very proud of making the university financially strong ... but even more so, all of the community involvement we have had.”

Garibaldi began at UDM in July 2011 succeeding the Rev. Gerard Stockhausen, who served as president for six years before departing to serve the Jesuit Conference.

Among Garibaldi's goals was to shore up enrollment, he wrote in announcing the end of his presidential tenure.

When he began, Garibaldi said student enrollment was 4,800.

Enrollment has since spiked. The first-year class is not only the largest but most diverse, with 34% first-generation students and Pell Grant eligible. Also represented in the class are students from 15 states and 18 countries, Garibaldi added.

 "In 2011, we had a first-year class of 465. Over the last several years, our freshmen classes have averaged around 525 students. In a few weeks, we are anticipating first-year class of more than 570 students, the largest class in 12 years," Garibaldi said in his letter.

"We have made major advances ... through significant changes in how we recruit and retain students, provide financial and academic support to them so they can enroll and be successful, and receive employment and attend graduate and professional school at high rates," Garibaldi wrote.

Other goals were to increase the university's endowment. In 2011, UDM's endowment was $25.9 million. The endowment now is nearly $94 million, more than triple since 2011 partly due to a $114.6 million fundraiser that concluded in December 2019.

"Because of the generosity of alumni and the current bridge campaign, an endowment of $100 million is achievable and not far away," he wrote. 

Michael McNamara, chairman of the university's board of trustees, said in an email that Garibaldi "has worked tirelessly to improve lives throughout this area and beyond."

"Since becoming president in 2011, Dr. Garibaldi has led Detroit Mercy to levels never seen before in our history," he said. "During his presidency, tuition has been reduced and enrollment has increased. He also led a record-breaking comprehensive campaign and has been involved in countless civic and educational organizations." 

A search for the next president will begin immediately, Garibaldi said. A search firm has been selected and members of a search committee will be announced.