President Kathleen A. Rinehart, J.D., is "All In"

“You can expect a lot of this girl, because she is capable of a lot.” - President Kathleen Rinehart’s 4th grade teacher, shared via her mother Dorothy, who watched the live stream of the installation ceremony from Illinois.
If folklore can be believed, then the gray skies and downpours on the morning of Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, can only mean good fortune for President Kathleen A. Rinehart, J.D., and Cardinal Stritch University.

While the rain caused traffic delays and unwelcome flooding, nothing could dampen the spirit of celebration that pervaded the campus that day as the Stritch community prepared for the official installation of Rinehart as the 9th president of the University in its 81-year history.

In the hours leading up to the ceremony, Rinehart shared meals with colleagues and well wishers; worshipped at a Mass officiated by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki; accepted the mace, medallion and mantle of office at the official installation; finished the inaugural festivities with a toast among guests; and, throughout it all, humbly endured the praise and attention lavished upon her. 

“I am honored to lead the University at this point in its history, along with my colleagues in the Stritch community,” Rinehart said in an inauguration video played during the installation ceremony. “We will carry forward the vision and legacy of the Sisters of St Francis of Assisi into a new chapter of growth and leadership in higher education.”

Characteristic of the leadership she demonstrated from the start of her tenure at Stritch in August 2017, when she accepted the role as interim president and later as president in January 2018, Rinehart seeks to focus attention on the University, the founding Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi and their legacy, and on the whole community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, Trustees and friends of the University while she quietly leads Stritch to build on its strengths and navigate the future.

“If any of you have the opportunity to go to the Leadership Commons area, the portraits of the former presidents are lined up,” Rinehart said. “And every morning as I come in to head to my office, I greet the ladies who remind me—sometimes with a sterner look on certain days and sometimes with some reaffirmation—here is the work that is before you.”

Since taking office more than a year ago, Rinehart and her leadership team have overseen the creation of the Institute for Conflict Studies (see page 11) and the Stritch Hub for Innovation and Community Engaged Learning (see page 10), a successful re-accreditation visit from the Higher Learning Commission, new concurrent enrollment agreements with several of the state's technical colleges, improvements to the campus environment including adding displays of alumni and student art, the establishment of the Pay It Forward fund for DACA students, and the first phase of video documentaries of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi who worked at Stritch. 

“Stritch’s investment in educational leadership throughout the greater Milwaukee area and across the state has been profound for the better part of a century,” Rinehart said. “Our daily work and strategic efforts are focused on ensuring the continuance of that leadership role and community collaboration for decades to come.”

On a more personal side, Rinehart defined her first year in office not only by the actions she took in overseeing the academic, financial and practical matters of running the University, but also through the relationships she intentionally formed with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. Her monthly calendar often includes a trip to Clare Hall, the residence of the Sisters, for a lunch and quality time in their company. She gains inspiration, guidance and support in their midst, and recognizes how their voices must continue to shape the University.

For this reason, Rinehart chose “Living our Values” as the theme of the inauguration, as she understands what sets the University apart in today’s competitive higher education landscape is its value-centered curriculum, operations and culture. That is the lasting legacy of the Sisters, and Rinehart is making it a priority of her presidency that the Stritch community doesn’t lose sight of that.

“I will say this so we burn it in our brains, we are forever in your debt and understand the responsibility of carrying forward the legacy you have established and worked so hard for, for the better part of a century,” Rinehart said, directly addressing the Sisters. “So it is with a great sense of pride, resolve and commitment to the preservation of the Stritch mission and the daily application of our Franciscan values that I formally accept the duties and responsibilities you have bestowed upon me today and, as I have mentioned during the past year, I am all in.”

Inauguration Prayer of Sending

by Sister Joanne Schatzlein, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi liaison to corporate ministries

God of Wisdom, Fortitude and Peace, we thank you for your presence with us today, including these past two days during which Cardinal Stritch University celebrated the Feast of St. Francis, culminating this celebration with the inauguration of Kathleen Rinehart as the ninth president of this University. You, O God, gift us with a heritage that is enduring, and with Franciscan values that guide our staff, faculty and students as they embrace the mission to which they have been called. We ask your special blessing on President Rinehart as she leads this University in ways faithful to its mission, and, with the courage of St. Clare of Assisi, may she courageously address the challenges of our time, shaping leaders who will respect the human dignity of every human being and all of creation, creating communities which show loving care, compassion and concern for each other, ultimately guiding every one of us connected with Stritch’s mission to faithfully lead others on the pathway to peace. We ask your blessing in the name of Jesus, the Word made Flesh who dwells in our midst, and in the Spirit who guides us always with her wisdom and grace. Amen.

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To see a recap video of Inauguration Day, read some of the well wishes sent from around the country or share words of congratulations to President Rinehart, visit

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Photos by Troy Freund, '95