WCR PHOTO | GLEN ARGAN
Dr. Jason West, philosophy professor and academic dean of Newman Theological College, now takes on the presidency of the college named after Blessed John Henry Newman.
Newman Theological College's board of directors has moved quickly to fill the gap left by its president, Father Paul Terrio, being named the bishop of St. Paul.
Dr. Jason West, academic dean for the past year and a half and a philosophy professor at the college, has been appointed to take on the additional role of college president.
The board offered him the job Oct. 19, the day after Terrio's appointment was announced, he said. He took the weekend to discuss the offer with his family and to pray about it.
"It was good for everybody that it was done quickly," West said, noting that he was surprised to be offered the job.
West said his appointment as president is effective until December 2013 when it will be re-evaluated.
Terrio's appointment as college president was short lived as he only assumed that mantle in July after 15 years as a parish priest.
"In a way, we're still engaged in the transition from Father Shayne (Craig) leaving," West said.
The dean has direct responsibility for the academic mission of the college while the president, he said, "is the chief executive officer of the college, responsible all the day-to-day operations."
"The other side is to be the public face of the college in the community," he added. That involves developing relationships with parishes, Catholic organizations, donors and other Christian churches.
The operational side of the presidency has been simplified since the college moved to its new building and many of its tasks have been amalgamated with those of the Edmonton Archdiocese, he said.
West said he sees this as an exciting time in the development of Newman College.
The concerns of dealing with a decaying building and then constructing and paying for a new one are in the past, and the college now has a balanced budget, he said. "We're in a sustainable position, which is unusual in this business."
The college can now focus on meeting the needs of the community for theological education, he said. It took a small, but important step by offering its certificate in Catholic studies for people across the West and the North who would like to learn more about their faith without dedicating several years to learning university-level theology.
"That is an exciting prospect – how to make theological education accessible to people where they are," he said. "There is a strong need and desire for that sort of thing."
West earned his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Waterloo and has taught at Newman College since 2004. He has published several academic articles and is writing a book on the philosophy of Jacques Maritain, a 20th century Catholic philosopher.
He and his wife Christine have six children.
West is also a member of Opus Dei, a Catholic organization that teaches that ordinary life is a path to holiness and that was depicted negatively in Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code.
West said, however, his membership in Opus Dei was not a consideration in naming him president of the college and that his membership mainly affects how he structures his spiritual life.
"If I was given advice from somebody in Opus Dei, it would have to do with how I say my prayer," he said. "It's certainly not a consideration that I see that affects my employment in the college."
Of course, he continued, if one sees one's work as a path to sanctification, "then one doesn't want to offer to God anything less than the best we can do."
If people have concerns, they should get to know him as he is, "rather than on the basis of a label or a preconception," he said.