SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – For nearly half of last year, Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey’s oldest and largest Catholic University, had no president.
After the last president stepped down in July, Seton’s top officials have been searching. Their strict qualification: Only catholic priests are allowed to head this university of about 10,000 students.
But in a break from a 25-year tradition, a Filipino educator became its first lay president and the first Filipino to become president of an American university.
“We’ve been blessed, my family and I, to be asked to play this key role at the key point of the history of Seton Hall, as a Filipino-American. At least, from what I understand at this point I’ll be the first Filipino-American President, it means a lot,” said Dr. Amado Gabriel Esteban said.
Seton’s Board of Trustees then made an exception to the University’s by-laws to allow the appointment of Dr. Esteban as president eventually.
“I try not to get out-worked, so hard work goes a long, long way towards ensuring that you’re able to reach your dreams. It doesn’t hurt to have some luck along the way, and I’d say prayer is a big factor,” he said.
Born and raised in the Philippines, 49-year-old Esteban comes from a family of educators. His father was a college professor and his mother was a high school teacher.
Before coming to the US in 1987, armed with his masters in business administration, Esteban taught at the College of Business at the University of the Philippines.
Esteban said, “I applaud our school teachers especially in the Philippines for what they do, they work with the future of our country”.
Being at the helm of the largest Catholic university is a big challenge. But Esteban is confident he could face their challenging new goal of becoming one of the top 5 Catholic universities in the nation.
Esteban said setting your dreams high often pays off big time. “If you set your goals low, then that’s what you’re going to achieve, so you have to set your goals high but never forget your priorities.”
Esteban said he may not be the priest they were looking for, but as a Filipino who embraces his Catholic faith like no other, it’s close enough.
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