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Dr. Robert B. Callahan was named the 11th president of Holy Family College, effective Jan. 30, 2018.

Dr. Callahan comes to Holy Family College from Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he served for six years beginning in 2012, most recently as vice president for administrative, enrollment and student services.

Eric Volcheff, chairman of the Holy Family College Board of Trustees, is pleased to welcome Dr. Callahan.

“On behalf of the board of trustees, we are excited to have an individual with the credentials and experience that Dr. Callahan possesses, leading the Holy Family College community,” Volcheff said. “The pool of talent that our executive search committee had to choose from was quite deep, but Rob rose to the top as the best individual to complete the strategic plan laid out by his predecessor and begin the next chapter for our college.”

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During his tenure at Mount Mercy University, Dr. Callahan led initiatives that grew freshmen and overall enrollment to record levels. He also was responsible for increasing residential, minority, international, veteran, choir/band and student-athlete enrollment to record levels.

Dr. Callahan supervised construction projects including a $16-million-dollar multi-stadium athletic complex, a chemistry labs renovation and a gymnasium renovation.

He has more than 24 years of professional experience in a broad array of areas within higher education, with more than half of those years as a senior-level administrator at four institutions of higher education.

“I am both humbled and honored to have been chosen to serve as president of Holy Family College. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity have built a wonderful Catholic institution with an academic program that focuses on the liberal arts combined with professional preparation that has transformed the lives of many students throughout its 82-year history,” Dr. Callahan said. “I am excited by the future potential for Holy Family College as America’s first Catholic Work College. The College is committed to providing students with hands-on, real-world work experience as an integral component of a high-quality and affordable college education.”

Dr. Callahan earned his Doctor of Philosophy in business administration with a specialization in management from Northcentral University in Prescott, Arizona. He earned his Master of Science in business administration and his Bachelor of Science in marketing management from Thomas College in Waterville, Maine.

He and his wife, Carolyn, along with their children, Jonathan and Katelyn, are “proud to become the newest members of the College's family,” he said and now live in the lakeshore area.

Send Congratulations to Dr. Callahan


The Inauguration of Robert B. Callahan, Ph.D. 
As the Eleventh President of Holy Family College

Friday, October 5, 2018

11:30 a.m.
Delegate Registration Opens
Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance
Rehearsal Hall

12:30 p.m.
College Chapel
Main Hall

1:30 p.m.
Robing - Faculty, Staff and Visiting Delegates
Franciscan Center for Music and Performance
Rehearsal Hall

1:30 p.m. 
Robing - VIP's (Trustees and Members of the Platform Party)
Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance
Room 115

2:30 p.m.
Installation Ceremony
Bob and Pat Endries Performance Hall
Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance

Reception immediately following the ceremony
Ariens Atrium

Please RSVP by Friday, September 21, 2018

"Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible"
- St. Francis of Assisi

Inauguration Speech

Dr. Robert B. Callahan's Inauguration Speech


Dr. Robert B. Callahan's Inauguration Speech Transcript

Sister Natalie and all the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, Bishop Ricken, Mayor Nickels, Distinguished leaders from other colleges and universities, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff, Trustees, Family and Friends -- Thank you all for coming to share this very special day with the Holy Family College community.

I want to take a moment to recognize some of the people here today who have had a positive influence on my life and without whom I doubt I would be standing before you today. Some of those individuals are here today to whom I need to say a special thank you.

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Thank you President Hamen for sharing all of those kind words about me. Laurie, when we first became colleagues I remember saying to myself, “my goodness, and I used to think I worked hard….” You are the hardest working leader I have ever encountered.

I learned so much from you about how to lead others. That actions, and results are so much more important than words.

You are an amazing person of strong faith and values that crystallized for me how true leadership is in being a servant leader.

Thank you for all you did to help me become a stronger leader and a better person. I am proud to have you as a mentor and friend. To my Uncle Stan, Aunt Gloria, Uncle John, Aunt Kathy, and Uncle Rick…you have all been great examples to me about how important it is to be there for your family. Thank you so much for traveling thousands of miles to be here on this special day.

To my Mother-in-Law Nancy, I have always admired the way you always are there to help a family member or a friend when they need it. Thank you for being a second Mom to me all these years. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t say thank you for doing such a great job raising the woman who would one day become my wife!

To my Dad, Brian, you taught me how important it is to always think positively, and to find the good in every person and in every situation.

You also taught me that if anything is worth doing it’s worth doing right. Those values have made a tremendous difference in my life. They will always be a part of me because of you Dad. Thank you.

To my Mom, Joan, thank you for being my first and my life-long religion teacher. You taught me how to pray. How to talk to God. How to trust in Him no matter what.

I also learned from watching you the importance of sharing our gifts with others and not just when it’s easy to do that. You have lived your life putting others needs ahead of yours, just as God asks us all to do. My strong faith and my understanding of the importance of helping others began with you, Mom. Thank you for those wonderful gifts!

To my children, Jonathan and Katelyn. I know that you have had to sacrifice a lot when we made the decision to move to Iowa 6 years ago and then this year to move to Wisconsin.

Leaving your friends, attending new schools and finding new Boy Scout troops, new bands, and new basketball and softball teams has not been easy. Thank you for trust in your Mom and I, and in your faith in knowing this is God’s plan for our family. We are so proud of you and the wonderful Christian young adults you are becoming!

To my wonderful wife, Carolyn. I cannot put into words how much of a difference you have made in my life. I would not be the man I am today without having you by my side for the last 30 years since we met in college. I so appreciate all that you do for us and for our family. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. Thank you for always believing in me and in us. I thank God every day for the gift of you in my life.

Finally, I need to say a special thank you to the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity for giving me the opportunity to lead this very special college they founded more than 80 years ago.

My family and I consider ourselves truly blessed and privileged to be part of the Holy Family College community. Carolyn and I could tell from the first moment we stepped on campus this is a special place!

I still feel it every day. At Holy Family College, our students certainly get a high quality liberal arts foundation combined with professional education that will prepare them well for a successful future. But, here, it is about much more.

First, the Sisters have safeguarded throughout our history that the Catholic, Franciscan values of Community, Compassion, Peacemaking, and Reverence for All of Creation are embedded in all that we do. Those values ensure this is a place where ALL are welcome. And, a place where everyone is committed to serving others and helping those in need. Second, our College is a place where students definitely will NOT be a number. People here know each other by name. They say “hello” to one another. They genuinely take time to ask “how are you doing?” This creates a strong sense of belonging that helps our students to make new friends and forge relationships that will last a lifetime!

Third, our faculty and staff are some of the most dedicated I have encountered in all my years in higher education. They take the time to really get to know our students. Who they are. Where they are from--their interests, and their dreams. Then they help them achieve them!

Our faculty and staff help students achieve their dreams day in and day out even when facing the challenges posed by increased competition for all types of students, reduced government funding, and rising costs are combining to make these very difficult times for many public and private colleges throughout our region and across the country.

There are many voices in the higher education world that believe small, private colleges without large endowments may not survive long into the future.

Yet, even during these challenging times, I believe Holy Family College will see a future where our College family is not just surviving, but is genuinely thriving!

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity have always been a resilient force able to overcome challenges and change to meet the needs of the times.

Mother Generose Cahill, one of the former leaders of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity and the original visionary who founded our College, offered this advice back in 1923 concerning the educational work being done then by the Sisters and the challenges they faced:

"We are living in a time fraught with difficulties and dangers such as Christian teachers previous to our time did not know. We cannot afford to be indifferent or satisfied to work as we did some years ago when demands were different and the children were not surrounded with dangers that lie in their paths today."

Even though this was almost 100 years ago I believe Mother Generose’s description of the situation and the advice she offered then is just as relevant to the challenges we face in today's world of higher education. Then and now, as a College family, we cannot afford to be indifferent or satisfied to work as we did some years ago.

To become a thriving institution in the future we must be open to change and willing to try new ways of doing things.

I also believe thriving colleges in the future will be those that act quite contrarily to the current wave of thinking that a college education’s primary or even sole purpose is to land graduates high paying jobs.

Instead, I believe thriving institutions will be those that help students envision goals that are ultimately more fulfilling than income or career aspirations alone.

Thriving institutions also will instill in graduates a desire to become lifelong learners and the skills to be able to adapt in a world with an ever increasing pace of change.

Thriving institutions will build intentional pathways for students to be mentored and to encourage future aspirations and ensure ALL students know faculty and staff truly care about their success and individual well-being.

I believe thriving institutions in the future will be those that do not try to be all things to all people and strategically focus on niche market opportunities.

ALL are things I believe Holy Family College has always had as hallmarks of the very personalized education we offer our students.

And, that is why I am so excited about our potential! And, our future!

We are a faith-based institution. We are a Catholic college that believes strongly in Catholic, Franciscan values. It’s part of our DNA.

We need to embrace that. And, to leverage that. There are many, many students who want a college where it’s about more than just receiving a high quality education.

There a many, many students who want a place where they can talk about God and faith and the importance of serving others and helping those in need. A place that will guide them on their own journey to understanding their own faith, and how that matters as they prepare to go out into the world after college and make a difference.

That’s something not every college can offer. It’s how we are special.

I think Pope Francis offered us all additional insight when he once challenged us all by saying: “Let us not be satisfied with a mediocre life.”

I believe he meant we need to have the courage to think BIG thoughts. To dream BOLD dreams.

Thriving institutions in the future will not get there by just seeking incremental change. We have to think BIG!

I envision a future for Holy Family College where we achieve many BIG BOLD dreams!

I envision a future where Holy Family College is no longer one of the best kept secrets in Wisconsin. A future where we grow from serving just under 450 students to where our enrollment eclipses 3,000 students.

A future where we grow our traditional student population to 1,000 strong that leverages our fantastic reputation in music to where we have more than 300 students singing in multiple choirs and playing in a variety of instrumental ensembles.

A future that builds upon our successes reaching students with a passion for athletics and includes several new sports to where we have more than 300 student-athletes on our campus.

A future where we will continue to do great things in preparing graduates for nursing and other health professions, to become educators, to become business professionals and the other areas for which we have strong enrollments already.

I see a future where we have the courage and the faith to become “Blue Ocean” strategic thinkers. Meaning, to not just set sail for strategic opportunities because that’s where many other boats are sailing. Instead we steer our boat to places where the fishing is still very good, but others are not focusing on!

A future where we set sail for “blue ocean” opportunities where we become a leader in growing missionary disciples through our theology program, in being a leader in fostering students’ passions for music studies, and in being a leader in the visual arts, as well.

A college education remains the key to opening the doors of possibility to a bright economic future for families. Our College was an early leader in developing accelerated degree programs to help many, many people earn a college degree that wouldn’t have achieved that milestone otherwise.

I see a future where Holy Family College is once again a pioneer in implementing innovative ways to utilize technology and partner with organizations to offer customized win-win educational programs.

A future where we are helping serve our region by continuously enrolling 1,000 working adults to finish their college degree.

A future where we enroll 1,000 students in top-notch master degrees taking them beyond the bachelor’s degree to even deeper and broader skill sets needed by today’s leaders.

I see a future where Holy Family College is a key economic driver for our region! Developing strategic partnerships with organizations of all kinds that also are committed to developing leaders grounded with strong faith and values.

Our College will become a source of pride as a place that attracts students from all over the US and internationally that not only earn their degree here, but that end up working here, living here, and raising families here.

I see a future where, together as a College family, we build upon the solid foundation of our past to achieve our full potential as a Catholic, Franciscan College that is a shining light for God’s love of us all.

A place that continues to embed our Franciscan values of Community, Compassion, Peacemaking, and Reverance for All of Creation in all that we do.

A College that continues to be devoted to rooting our graduates in the importance of servant leadership, of helping those in need, and in making the world a better place for future generations.

A College that provides more than an education for a career, more than an education for life. A College that is committed to providing an education for eternity.

Some might think to achieve this kind of future is wishful thinking. Some might say all of this sounds great but can we really get there in this day and age where there seem to be too many colleges to choose from and not enough students?

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 17, verse 20, Jesus shared this parable with his disciples, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

It will take much hard work to get to this thriving future. And, hard work over a long period of time. By all of us. Even though that can seem daunting to us now, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that great things are accomplished by doing what’s necessary first, then by doing what’s possible, and before you know it you are achieving the impossible!

Together as a college family, if we listen to St. Francis’ advice, and ensure we lead with faith in all that we do, together, we will move mountains, we will achieve a fantastic future for Holy Family College!

May God bless us all on this journey together and May God continue to bless Holy Family College!

Dr. Robert b. Callahan's inauguration Appeal

Dear Friend,

As you know, Holy Family College is a special place. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity have built a College where the Catholic Franciscan values of Community, Compassion, Peacemaking and Reverence for All of Creation are embedded throughout the entire institution.

Dr. Robert B. Callahan continues to embrace this Catholic tradition. What inspires us most is his passion to fulfill the mission of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. As St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Dr. Callahan continues to share this philosophy with the College community as he propels Holy Family College into the future.

As he embarks on his presidency, we have established The President’s Strategic Investment Fund to enable Dr. Callahan to capitalize on emerging opportunities as they arise.  The unrestricted resources will allow him to invest in key priorities and support programs and initiatives to drive the College forward.

On behalf of the Holy Family College Board of Trustees, I invite you to join us in supporting The President’s Strategic Investment Fund as we strengthen our Catholic identity. Through these efforts and Dr. Callahan’s leadership, we will most certainly achieve the impossible.



Eric B. Volcheff
Chairman, Holy Family College Board of Trustees

Support the President’s Strategic Investment Fund

Send Congratulations

Send your congratulations to Dr. Callahan

Please use this form to send Dr. Callahan greetings and well wishes on his inauguration as Holy Family College's 11th president.