Mission and History

Our Mission Statement

The Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership (ICEL) is designed to inform, form, and transform leaders in Catholic Education.

By recognizing and honoring the experiences that students bring to ICEL, the Institute strives to be a professional learning community with the following aims:

  • Offering rigorous and relevant programs for Catholic scholar-practitioners;
  • Building a sense of community among the students and faculty who pray together and serve others;
  • Preparing and supporting highly effective and dedicated Catholic educators and leaders committed to social justice.

In addition, ICEL provides: symposia; conferences; presentations at schools, parishes and national conventions; and opportunities for professional development and networking for faculties, administrators, trustees and church officials.

ICEL supports the mission of the University of San Francisco producing leaders who are profoundly influenced by the teaching mission and ministry modeled by Jesus Christ.


The ICEL was founded in 1976 at the University of San Francisco through the collaborative efforts of the Dean of the School of Education, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Archdiocese of San Francisco, Dr. Michael O'Neill, Catholic school scholar and author, and former superintendent. O'Neill was appointed the first director, and he introduced ICEL to the Catholic school community by hosting a national symposium on the newly published book, Catholic Schools in a Declining Church, by Greeley, McCreedy and McCourt. An off-campus program in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was part of the original design.

In 1978, Edwin J. McDermott, S.J., was appointed Director. The doctoral program became a major part of ICEL's research thrust. Mary Peter Traviss, O.P., was named the third director in 1989 and in 1991 WASC approved an off-campus program in Hawaii. The California State Credential program was added in Los Angeles. It was followed by an M.A. in Catholic School Teaching. In 2004, the fourth director, Br. Ray Vercruysse, C.F.C, took the reins of the Institute.

ICEL celebrated its 20th anniversary in July 1996, with a symposium on Catholic School Research: From the Ivory Tower to the Catholic School Classroom. ICEL celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a gala year of events and activities. ICEL hosted a Research Summit, a "think tank" of 12 prominent researchers to determine what has been useful in Catholic school research and what remains to be done. The following scholars accepted ICEL's invitation to attend: John Convey, Vin Duminuco, S.J., Mike Guerra, Peter Holland, Tom Hunt, Remegia Kushner, CSJ. Joe O'Keeffe, S.J., Bruno Manno, Lourdes Sheehan, RSM, and Jerry Starratt. Ed McDermott, S.J., Gini Shimabukuro, and Mary Peter Traviss, O.P., joined the group. Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp, S.P. acted as director of communications for the Summit.

The anniversary year "kicked off" with a liturgy and social on June 21, 2000 and every event scheduled for the summer, including the Phi Delta Kappa initiation, saluted ICEL on its 25th anniversary. The six part Speakers series got off to a heady start with a lecture on John Henry Newman by Mary Peter Traviss, O.P. (July 6) and by Msgr. Milton Walsh on Roland Knox (July 18). During the fall semester Robert Bimonte spoke in Salt Lake City, Utah; Dr. GIni Shimabukro was the featured speaker in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Dr. Elinoe Ford spoke to the Catholic school teachers in Los Angeles. During the spring semester, Father Andrew Greeley brought the series to a close in Presentation Theatre, University of San Francisco.

In February 2001, Father Ted Ross, S.J., was the guest lecturer at a special Symposium and Tea to honor John Henry Newman. Open to the public, the afternoon was a gracious affair and an opportunity for non-university personnel to help celebrate ICEL's anniversary.

In 2003 ICEL presented Margaret Wheatly as the keynote speaker for a conference entitled Relationships: A Focus of Catholic Education for the New Century, the purpose of the conference was to bring together Catholic schools to contribute to the change in the way the people of the world relate to one another.

During this same summer ICEL introduced a new format with a five-day conference, largely for non-matriculating students on Growing and Developing: The Catholic Secondary School Presiding.In 2004, the format for the five-day conference was repeated in another conference on staff development, Leading Schools that Learn: Tools and Templates for Elementary School Leaders. The President's conference was repeated at Saint Louis University and co-sponsored by ICEL.

In 2011, after completing his tenure as president of Loyola, a coed Jesuit high school in New York City, Steve Katsouros, S.J., became ICEL’s fourth director. Father Katsouros, whose doctoral dissertation at Columbia University Teachers College focused on leadership, governance, and institutional performance, collaborated with ICEL faculty, Dr. Gini Shimabukuro and Dr. Doreen Jones, in designing a survey to assess the proficiencies needed for successful Catholic educational leaders. Over 5,000 leaders in Catholic administrators in higher, secondary, and elementary education as well as superintendents and other diocesan officials, were surveyed, and respondents identified Catholic identity as the most important proficiency. Dr. Shimabukuro and ICEL adjunct professor Marcy Fox began to design an online course to be offered by ICEL on Catholic identity.

During Fr. Katsouros’s first year at ICEL, the Institute’s Mission Statement was revised and the by-laws of the Advisory Board were updated; Dr. Walt Gmelch, the Dean of USF’s School of Education, approved both.

Fr. Katsouros was externally focused, promoting ICEL, visiting Bay Area Catholic educational institutions, and working closely with his advisory board members:

Sharon McCarthy Allen
Michael Daniels
George Hamel, III
Laura Held
Bishop William Justice
John Koeplin, S.J.
John McGarry, S.J.
William Miller
Kathleen Murphy
Mary Magnano Smith
Chris Valdez

ICEL continued to offer conferences, including Financial Management and Mission, and Making Decisions to Sustain Your Mission; the latter was designed to address the needs of boards of Catholic colleges, universities and high schools. In addition, Fr. Katsouros added Business and Finance to the list of required courses for CEL masters and doctoral students, and in the spring he announced that Fr. Ralph Metts, SJ, would join the ICEL faculty. Fr. Metts is the former president of the Jesuit Secondary Education Association.

Moving Forward

Effective August 11, 2014, Dr. Michael Duffy, Director of the Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought, began serving as the Interim Director of ICEL. His appointment and experience, along with newly hired faculty member Dr. Ursula Aldana, will give ICEL the capacity to create a new vision and programming for ICEL.

Dr. Duffy began his employment at USF in 1996 as Associate Director for Social Justice in University Ministry where he directed several of USF's most prominent social justice programs, including the Arrupe Immersion Program, the Justice Lecture Series, the Peace and Justice Coalition, and the faculty-staff immersion program to El Salvador. He received the Fr. William Dunne Award by USF president Fr. Stephen A. Privett, S.J., the highest award for staff service, as well as the Peacemakers Award by the USF Peace & Justice Coalition. Since 2007 he has been the Director of the Joan and Ralph Lane Center for Catholic Studies and Social Thought. He is co-chair of USF's University Council for Jesuit Mission and serves on the national steering committee of the Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education conference as well as the executive board of Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice.

Dr. Duffy has strong ties to ICEL and the School of Education. He has taught as an adjunct faculty with the Catholic Educational Leadership degree programs and is an alumnus of ICEL, having received his doctorate in 2005. His dissertation was titled, "Directives within Catholic Social Thought for the Promotion of Justice through Educational Activities."