Introducing President-elect Stoute
On Friday Feb. 26, the Board of Trustees announced that Steve Stoute, J.D. will serve as the 25th president of Canisius College.
Beginning his tenure on July 1, 2022, Stoute will be the youngest person to have led the college, in addition to the first person of color in the position. He currently serves DePaul University as the vice president of strategic initiatives, as well as the chief of staff. He has been at DePaul since 2018.
The presidential search sparked campus-wide excitement, especially when the three finalists came for their final interviews. The candidates received an opportunity to interact with students, faculty and staff. The announcement of President-elect Stoute’s selection was held in Montante Cultural Center on Friday morning, creating a buzz across Western New York.
In an interview with The Griffin, Stoute shared his excitement to get started at Canisius. “The response from the campus community, from the Buffalo community [and] from people in Western New York has been overwhelming, and I'm just so grateful to be embraced like that in the place that we will call home,” Stoute said. He and his wife will move to Buffalo with their two young daughters. He said his family is excited to get to know the community and the area. He also added that his family loves sports, and when the Bills were mentioned he said he has quite a bit of red and blue in his wardrobe.
Canisius will definitely be an adjustment for Stoute after DePaul University. Stoute said, “I work at the largest Catholic institution in the country; it is hard to come to grips with 20,000 students.”
Canisius College has around 3,000 students, so it is quite a difference. Stoute referenced his experience at his alma mater Seton Hall. The president at the time singled him out and asked him about his student experience, an experience that inspired him to work in higher education.
“I want to be so ingrained in the Canisius community that everywhere you turn — everywhere —, everywhere you look, I'm there. And I want to have conversations. I want to get to know what you and the students are passionate about, what you care about, what is your vision for Canisius,” Stoute explained. “It is our collective, our shared vision for the institution, that we will work together to bring about for our current generation, but also for future generations of Griffins as well.”
Stoute is focused on bringing the Canisius community back together. Following the pandemic and the professor layoffs, the gap between faculty and administration has grown. He hopes to be transparent and work as a team with everyone on campus. Stoute said, “I, as president, have to model what I want; I have to lead in that way, I have to be open, I have to be honest [and] I have to listen. And when I do that, what I've learned is I can expect that in return. I can expect that we will have respectful, open, candid dialogue that our students and our faculty, and our staff will give me and the senior leadership team an opportunity to share our views and our opinions.”
It is no secret that the college is in a period of transition. Financial problems stemming from the pandemic and lack of enrollment have caused the college to struggle, as well as multiple lawsuits have painted a negative picture of Canisius. Canisius was also placed on the sanctions list of the American Association of University Professors over the summer, another hurdle for Stoute to jump over as he begins his tenure.
He is up for the challenges presented to him, though, he said; “I'm comfortable in the murky that we don't know all of the answers. But together, all of our various perspectives and expertise and opinions and experiences will inform what I know will be good for Canisius.”
Canisius is located in the Hamlin Park neighborhood, and students regularly engage with the community. Stoute would like to continue the college’s community outreach and service, in order to leave a lasting positive impact. “Yes, I am the president, and I will lead the institution. But I will lead it in a way that engages broadly across campus and in our community,” Stoute said. “What does Buffalo need Canisius to be? What does Western New York need us to be?”
Canisius’s current president, John J. Hurley, was the first layperson to serve as the president of the college. Stoute continues the trend of breaking history, becoming the first person of color to lead the college. When asked what this means to him, Stoute expressed pride. He said he looks forward to the future and what this will mean for young people of color. “I will not be the last person of color to lead Canisius, and that is how I think about it, as the most important thing it is not — it's not about me. It is about others who will follow me and ensuring that they have a better opportunity than I did to get to this,” Stoute said. He continued to say that he is proud to be breaking down walls and inspiring young people.
Stoute is very passionate about making sure that the college continues to grow throughout his time and even after he ends his time at Canisius. He is looking forward to the future.
“It doesn't matter what you look like; it doesn't matter how old you are; are you capable of doing the job?” he posited. “And that means so much to me. Not only as a Black man, but as the father of daughters. Because there's a gender bias that still exists in this country and around the world, where people think women can't do certain things.” Ideas of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) were a big part of questions presented in the presidential forums. Each candidate was asked for specific plans they had in order to increase DEI on campus. Stoute said, “When I think about diversity, it is creating a culture — creating an institution where we reward and support our people in helping them be successful, regardless of what they look like.”
When asked the most important question (whether he eats blue cheese or ranch with his wings), Stoute gave a very diplomatic answer. He said he is an adventurous eater and looking forward to trying both with his wings.
President-elect Stoute is prepared to tackle large and small issues and is excited to get on campus and get to know the community. He says he is also looking forward to participating in campus traditions and perhaps creating some new ones. While the future is unknown, one thing is for certain: Steve Stoute is ready to take on the challenge of leading Canisius College.