By Kristie Hamon

James Conneely, Ph.D., associate provost and vice president for student affairs at Eastern, will be leaving the university after this semester to become the first male president at Notre Dame of Maryland University, a historical women’s college, in July.

Conneely has been associate provost and vice president for student affairs since 2003.

Coneely said he was nominated for the position, contacted by a search firm, and submitted his credentials, references and cover letter in October. After making it through the paper cut, he was invited to an off-site interview with about nine other people.

After that, he was invited as one of three finalists to the campus, where he spent two and a half days on campus meeting people. Conneely said he was then interviewed, the Board of Regents met and he was selected unanimously as the next president of the university.

Conneely said he is originally from New York and has family in Maryland and around the area, but he chose to work at Notre Dame of Maryland University because it was just the right fit for him.

“But it’s also, honestly, it’s the type of institution I’ve dreamed of going to,” Conneely said.

He said he started to dream of becoming president of a college when he became vice president for Student Affairs at Eastern, about five years ago.

“I started thinking about opportunities and I was encouraged by my mentors and other people that thought I would be a good president,” Conneely said.

Eastern President Doug Whitlock, said, in an email, he sends his congratulations to Notre Dame of Maryland University for choosing Conneely.

“I congratulate Dr. Conneely on this career milestone, but an even bigger congratulations goes to the search committee and Board of Trustees who identified and hired him,” Whitlock said. “They have hired an outstanding higher education administrator who has contributed much to our university and to the central Kentucky area.”

Nancy Carr, public relations for Notre Dame of Maryland University, said Conneely was a perfect fit for the school.

“We’re a women’s college, we’re catholic, we’re a small catholic school, you know, compared to Eastern Kentucky, but it’s like as soon as he came he just stuck with us, it almost seemed inevitable once we met him, it was really something, something different,” Carr said.

In a press release on Notre Dame of Maryland University’s website, Patricia J. Mitchell, the chair of the board of trustees at Notre Dame of Maryland University said Conneely was the best person for the position.

“We found many extraordinary female candidates in our national search,” Mitchell said. “But the very best candidate, the individual who represents the right fit for Notre Dame at this time in our history, is Dr. Jim Conneely.”