Ancilla College's May to retire

DONALDSON — After eight years of service to the students, faculty, and community at Ancilla College, Ron May is retiring.

On Saturday, June 7, Ancilla College will celebrate May’s service at Cana Hall in the Center at Donaldson from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A native Hoosier who grew up in southern Indiana, May received his doctoral degree from Indiana University in Bloomington before teaching at IUPUI for 11 years. This kicked off a 46-year career in educational service.

“That started my sojourn in the south from 1985 until 2006. I was either a dean, a president, or a vice president at colleges in the south,” May said.

In 2006, May and his wife Joan moved back to Indiana for what he viewed as a promising position.

“The opportunity presented at Ancilla was immense; Ancilla’s mission and values were a very close match to my own,” recalled May. “Primarily it was the opportunity to serve in a place like Ancilla. That was the main attraction.”

Ancilla is a private, liberal arts school and is the last independent two year college in the state. Unlike many colleges and universities, Ancilla’s religious roots are still front and center, as every classroom has a crucifix as well as the college’s mission statement hanging on the wall.

May’s values are important to him, and have directed his approach to leadership and education, in a method he calls servant leadership.

“I believe that leaders need to see themselves as servants first,” he explained. “We have a responsibility to look for and identify the skill sets of everybody around us and try and work in a way that takes advantage of all those things to move the whole organization forward and help it accomplish its goals.”

May credits his parents and grandparents with impressing on him the concept of servant leadership.

“There are times when I have to go out and say to somebody ‘You need to get this done’, but there are other times when I can go to that person and say, ‘How can I help you do that?’ It’s a very different perspective on how to manage people.”

Jerry Gurrado, the Coordinator of Student Services and Programs at SCILL Center in Knox thinks that Ancilla College has done well under May’s leadership.

“The atmosphere is accessible and friendly,” said Gurrado. “I think it resonates from him on down. You may see him at social functions and there is nothing aloof about him.”

“I think the most impressive thing is how much of a presence he has created, with his team and staff. Ancilla is involved in economic development and educational programs.”

For Gurrado, Ancilla was a key part of getting SCILL off the ground and helping to advise them.

“Every time you turn around, you see Ancilla involved. They’ve gone from ‘Who are they?’ to “Oh yes, that’s Ancilla.”

“There is nothing ivory tower for him about education. It’s students first and how can we serve them and facilitate that help. He’s about serving the school and surrounding community,” related Gurrado.
May now believes that it is time for him to ‘turn the reins over to someone who has new and fresher ideas. There will be a lot of new innovations and new approaches ahead for education.”

But leaving is bittersweet.

“I’ve had a large number of students and faculty wish me well. They understand my reasons for retirement, but I think there’s a certain level of disappointment,” said May. “That is flattering to me personally, a positive reaction after eight years.”

This article was published in the May 31 edition of the Pilot News.