NORTH CANTON  Walsh University's president, Richard Jusseaume, has been the face and the voice of Walsh, as well as the conscience upholding the mission of educational institution for nearly two decades.

During his 18-year tenure as president, which will end with his retirement in the middle of 2019, Jusseaume has been ever mindful of that mission of the seven founding Brothers of Christian Education, who opened the college campus almost 60 years ago on farm fields along Easton Road NW. The vision of those brothers saw Walsh educating students who might not otherwise get a chance to go to college -- children of blue collar workers and the offspring of immigrants such as Jusseaume.

Jusseaume, 72, has been vigilant in reminding others associated with the university that this education must, as an online history of Walsh outlines, have as its foundation "faith, courage, and selfless hard work."

"I've always thought that if we can just remember why the brothers founded this institution, we'd be fine," said Jusseaume, who will continue at Walsh as a consultant at least until the conclusion of his contract in 2020. "I'm sure as I kept repeating it through the years I drove some people crazy, but it has served us well."

Even as he is credited with enlarging the university campus, increasing its enrollment, and strengthening Walsh's educational offerings, Jusseaume frequently uses the pronoun "us" instead of "I."

"My wife, Terie (Theresa), who also was a Walsh graduate, more than anyone has kept me on the straight and narrow in the pursuit of a vision for the university," Jusseaume said. "Whenever I started thinking it was my vision or my success, I got a gentle elbow reminding me that it really wasn't just me. I didn't build any buildings by myself. I had people around me who shared that vision and we were able to make something happen. Our alumni in the community bought into the vision."

Jusseaume's dedication to the thinking of the Brothers of Christian Education is understandable, considering that his relationship with Walsh goes back decades before he began leading the university. His time with Walsh spans nearly the school's entire history. Jusseaume went to school at Walsh, studied for a time as a brother in training, returned as a dean of students, and came back again after a career in business.

"I got there in 1963 and Walsh had opened in 1960..." Jusseaume recalled. "Walsh's first graduation was at Timken High School in 1964 and yours truly was in the first row."

Leadership

Articles in issues of the university publication Walsh Times encapsulate the career of "one of Ohio's longest-serving presidents of a four-year private university."

Calling Jusseaume "a man of deep Catholic faith with an acute business sense," a 2015 article notes that he was educated by the Brothers of Christian Instruction from the age of 11 while living in Massachusetts. Offered a scholarship by the Brothers to go to Walsh, Jusseaume came to the Stark County school and graduated in 1967. Following his education, and after working as a teacher, he twice served as dean of students and was a member of the Walsh Board of Directors from 1992-2001.

Retired as CEO of Graphic Enterprises of Ohio, Jusseaume was vice president of the Walsh board in 2001 at the time of the tragic death of President Ken Hamilton. On an emergency basis, Jusseaume was asked by the board to assume a position of leadership.

"After serving as interim president for nearly a year," the Walsh Times article recalls, "he was officially named Walsh’s sixth president on March 7, 2002."

Jusseaume initially was hesitant to move into the position but was encouraged by then board member Sam Sliman, a Walsh grad who knew Jusseaume as a "dynamic guy ... a forward thinker."

"We needed some stability. We had just gone through two presidents in two years and probably six vice presidents and several other key positions," recalled Sliman. "Rich was the clear choice. I knew we needed some longevity, and Rich has provided that. I knew then and I know now that we made the right decision."

Jusseaume's own reasons for stepping in and ultimately assuming the position on a permanent basis were simple.

"I owed a debt of gratitude to the brothers, and this was one way I could repay it," recalled Jusseaume, who noted that Brother Francis Blouin, Walsh's third president, also reached out to him with encouragement. "I felt if I could bring some sound business practices to Walsh, it would grow, and it did.

"I felt called to be there," Jusseaume said, "and it's been the best 18 years of my life."

A Business Background

Sliman noted that, despite training as a teacher, Jusseaume was not a "pure academic," and that the president's business background has served Walsh well.

"He knew how to run a business and that's what a university really is," said Sliman. "He was a member not only of the Walsh community, but the community at large.

"And, he knew how to raise funds."

Jusseaume, who estimates that he has gotten to know more than 15,000 alumni, chuckles at the topic.

"When I saw alumni I would ask them if they received any financial aid when they attended Walsh, and, of course, they would say 'yes,'" Jusseaume said. "I'd say, 'I need it back; we've got another generation to get through Walsh.' And it came back 10-fold -- 100-fold."

Judge Sara Lioi, current chair of the Walsh board of directors, said Jusseaume has brought his business skills to the task of developing the campus and curriculum.

"He is a unique spokesperson because he basically grew up with the Brothers and he understands what they were trying to do," said  "He's very knowledgeable. He's very articulate. He's very driven to advance the university."

University makes advances

A statement from Walsh University at the time Jusseaume's retirement was announced listed many of the advances the university has made during the president's time of leadership.

Total enrollment at Walsh has grown from 1,684 to 2,782 and the number of buildings on campus has increased from 11 to 27.

All the while, Jusseaume has made sure Walsh business was done with 18 consecutive balanced budgets.

"We don't borrow money to build buildings," explained the president. "We raise money and open buildings."

In addition, undergraduate majors have grown from 32 to 70 and graduate/certificate programs have increased from four to 20. The endowment fund has mushroomed from $2 million to more than $27 million.

Even while looking back at the part he played in the Walsh's expansion over almost two decades, the university's president diverts the praise toward a higher power.

"God grants the increase," said Jusseaume, a devout Catholic. "Our job is to plant the seeds and let God worry about the harvest."

Building a community

Even when Jusseaume started as president, he knew that "we couldn't pay the highest salaries to faculty and staff." Instead, the president labored to assemble a group of loyal staff members who "wanted to build something."

Jusseaume was one of those willing individuals, said Dan Cunningham, a Walsh alumnus and former assistant dean of admissions who once was a member of the Walsh board and now is an adjunct professor of ethics at the university.

"He would never ask for raises for himself," said Cunningham. "He'd say, 'You guys figure it out. I know you're going to take care of me.' That says a lot about the man. He has impeccable integrity."

One of Jusseaume's longer-serving staff members -- often seen sitting near him at basketball games and other events -- is Dale Howard, vice president of athletics and former dean of students.

Howard said it would be difficult to imagine a university president being more involved in the day-to-day activity of students.

"He will attend almost every function the university has," said Howard. "The honors programs. The religious programs. He loves the athletic events. He has been the driving force of it all. He has boundless energy. I don't know when he has time to sleep."

Howard said he has seen Jusseaume frequently go out into the community to raise awareness of Walsh and he has watched as the president interrupted meetings so he could greet visitors to the university.

"His shoes will be difficult to fill, but I do have faith that Walsh will find a leader who will continue the growth for which he laid the foundation."

The future

Lioi said the board would begin a national search for a new president, hoping to have his successor in place by the summer.

Jusseaume pledged to continue to work on "unfinished business" and fundraising, helping a new president go forward with projects.

"That's how gracious he is," said Lioi. "He wants to contribute in any way that would help his successor."

So, for now, Jusseaume will remain on the job with his office door open.

"Why am I so important that my door shouldn't be open?" Jusseaume reasoned. "I've always thought that if people made the effort to come to me there must be something going on that they thought I could help them with. I've always figured that if I kept the door open or I walked around the campus, I would hear from them."

While striding the campus and talking to students, Jusseaume no doubt has seen evidence of his lasting influence.

Student enrollment is diverse. Students continue to be drawn from working class families. The education they receive remains faith-based. And young leaders-in-training stay involved through volunteer work in their community.

"What I have found as I travel the country visiting our alumni is that they are out in their communities making a difference," said Jusseaume.

"I've always felt that in our own little way we were doing good work and, if truly we were, that it justified the existence of Walsh University. Our team of administrators, faculty, staff and especially students believed in our mission and what a difference we have made in the lives of so many."