The Cheerleader

By John Monczunski | Spring 2015

Tom Harvey seemed too good to be true.

In 2005, then Mendoza Dean Carolyn Woo needed to find a director who could turn around the college’s Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) degree program. Established in 1954 by Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, as an MBA for religious order members running Catholic nonprofit institutions, the degree had fallen on hard times. With fewer vocations in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the program gradually lost its student base, finally bottoming out in the 1990s.

“It was a time of tremendous change,” recalls Woo, who now is the CEO of Catholic Relief Services. ‘“We stopped admitting students to the old program, [which had been re- named the Master of Science in Administration (MSA) after Notre Dame began a traditional MBA program in 1967.] We completely redesigned it.”

Woo needed a visionary leader to head the reshaped program. Ideally, she was hoping to find someone with the necessary academic credentials who had turned around a faltering organization, knew the world of nonprofits and understood Mendoza’s Catholic mission.

Harvey’s résumé was tailor-made. He had more than 40 years of experience running Catholic nonprofit organizations, including a stint as CEO of Catholic Charities where he reorganized and rebranded that organization. He knew everybody who was anybody in the nonprofit sector.

His academic pedigree included a graduate degree in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University specializing in rational planning, plus training in nonprofit administration from the Wharton School of Business.

Additionally, he had written and spoken widely on Catholic social teaching and the Second Vatican Council.

In short, he was the dream candidate.

During that decade, folks at Mendoza have come to appreciate Harvey for many qualities that don’t make the résumé.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that he got the job and continues to have Woo’s deep admiration. In a turnabout situation, when she applied for the CEO position at Catholic Relief Services, Harvey helped her prepare for her job interview, telling his soon-to-be former boss her weaknesses — and strengths.

“Tom Harvey is one of the most thoughtful people I know,” Woo says. “He is a straightforward, plain-speaking person who says what he means. And he is a tremendous problem solver. Whenever he makes recommendations they come with excellent reasons.” Woo always enjoyed working with him, she adds, because they could “push back on each other’s ideas, leveraging them.”

As he had done at Catholic Charities, Harvey forged a new identity for Mendoza’s nonprofit efforts, tapping into his old contacts. To better reflect the program’s intended audience, he renamed the degree Master of Nonprofit Administration, which has proved to be a boon for student recruitment.

The MNA program has grown from 12 students in 2005 to 35 last year. The department itself was renamed Nonprofit Professional Development as it grew to include non-degree programs designed to help nonprofit leaders develop critical business skills. Harvey oversaw the establishment of a portfolio of Nonprofit Executive Programs, which last year granted certificates to more than 1,000 participants. Also on Harvey’s watch, strategic partnerships were initiated with Catholic Charities, Volunteers of America, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Peace Corps and China’s Renmin University, all of which send students to the degree program.

Now, as his 10-year tenure winds down in July, with Father David Tyson, CSC, former president of the University of Portland, taking over, the Luke McGuinness Director of Nonprofit Professional Development can take a bow.

It has been a very good decade.

During that decade, folks at Mendoza have come to appreciate Harvey for many qualities that don’t make the résumé. Wearing his trademark newsboy cap, he cuts a familiar figure in the College. He’s the guy who always has a friendly word. He can discourse at great length and depth about topics ranging from early Church history to Catholic social justice to strategies for organizing optimal nonprofit boards.

If Harvey is seated at your table during a formal dinner, you never have to worry about the conversation lapsing into awkward silence. “Tom has the gift of gab, in the very best of ways,” says Kimberly Brennan (MNA ’06), former MNA program manager who worked with Harvey for the past 10 years. “He is a gifted storyteller. That’s something that’s hugely important as a leader. If you can tell a good story, you can captivate an audience. Tom always finds a way to engage with people, whether they are students, faculty or professionals.”

And his charm extends to animals, too. Colleagues have nicknamed him “Pet Refuge” because of the many animals he and his wife, Karen, have rescued — including a feral cat they mistook for a family’s lost pet. Well, no matter. After months of hissing and growling whenever it was approached, the cat finally was tamed by the Harveys’ loving care. It now fetches toys like a dog and lavishes affection on Harvey.

In 2010, Harvey received a special Catholic Charities USA Centennial Award, given to 100 recipients for their contributions to the reduction of poverty in the United States and extraordinary commitment to the vision and mission of CCUSA.

He also worked extensively with the Fetzer Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to fostering awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community. In 2012, he spearheaded an important conference with the institute, Restoring Hope: Altruistic Responses to Human Violence Seminar. The event was unique in its approach to addressing the tragic aftermath of violent acts, ranging from murder to terrorism. It featured a select group of 15 to 20 individuals victimized by various types of human violence, but who responded by establishing an altruistic program to help others and enhance the quality of life in their community or other communities throughout the globe.

What’s next for the genial Pittsburgh native? Some consulting gigs and speaking engagements are a safe bet. In February, Harvey presented a paper at a conference in Manila, advocating, among other things, that business schools should address the increasing economic polarization in the world. He held up Notre Dame, with its nonprofit programs, the Kroc Peace Institute and the Eck Global Institute, as an example to be emulated. That may result in some requests for talks, he muses.

During basketball season, the Harveys will undoubtedly be cheering Muffet McGraw and the ND women on to victory, as they have done at nearly every game within the past 10 years. In a way, it’s a metaphor for Harvey, who uses his skills and contacts to advance Notre Dame, Mendoza and the Master of Nonprofit Administration program always and everywhere.

This past spring Harvey recorded sessions of his course “The Issues and Challenges for Nonprofits” for a company that markets recordings of popular college professors. That, too, may garner requests for talks and workshops.

“I don’t really know how not to work,” Harvey confesses. “That’s both an anxiety area and a driving force. It makes things happen. If I look back on my own life, it’s like where will lightning hit next?”