SHAWNEE, OK. — St. Gregory’s University announced that Monsignor James P. Shea, president of the University of Mary, will deliver the keynote address for its Spring Commencement Ceremony to be held on Saturday, May 14 at 11 a.m.

Monsignor James Shea

Monsignor James Shea, President of the University of Mary

As noted in the latest edition of the National Catholic Register magazine’s Daily News, writer Joseph Pronechen states that “in short order, Msgr. Shea has propelled his university to be among the faithful Catholic institutions in the country.”

During his current tenure as the sixth president of the University of Mary, Shea has spearheaded several groundbreaking higher education initiatives to include the new Year-Round Campus program that allows students to graduate in 2.6 years and earn their master’s degree in four years. In Oct. of 2014, Shea announced a partnership with Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) that will allow incoming freshmen nursing majors at Mary to receive their senior year free. He entered the University of Mary into an unprecedented collaborative agreement with the largest public research university in America — Arizona State University — that allows ASU students to take courses from Mary in theological studies and Catholic studies.

Shea’s other popular visionary programs include a new campus in Rome, Italy; the Catholic Scholars program that provides free room and board to eligible graduates of Catholic high schools offered to first-time, full-time freshmen; in 2010 he created the Bishop Paul A. Zipfel Catholic Studies Program that has quickly become the second largest in the United States. In 2012, his alma mater, Catholic University of America, presented Shea with the prestigious Young Alumni Award. The award recognizes graduates of CUA who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and promise at an early age.

Monsignor Shea was inaugurated in 2009 as the sixth president of the university and, at the age of 34, became the youngest college or university president in the United States. He is also a Knight Commander of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and has served on the National Advisory Council to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Governor’s Commission on Education Improvement for the State of North Dakota.

Monsignor Shea has worked with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity at the Gift of Peace AIDS Hospice while teaching religion at two inner-city elementary schools in Washington, D.C. In Rome, he served as chaplain for the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital and also at the Rome campus of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of Saint Thomas.

Following his ordination to the priesthood in 2002, he returned to North Dakota and served as an associate pastor in Bismarck and Mandan. During that time, he was also the chaplain and an instructor at Saint Mary’s Central High School in Bismarck. He then served as pastor to parishes in Killdeer and Halliday (North Dakota), while teaching at Trinity High School in Dickinson. Deeply committed to the education and formation of young people, he has been an inspirational teacher and mentor for many students.

The oldest of eight children, Monsignor Shea grew up on a dairy and grain farm near Hazelton, North Dakota, just 38 miles from the University of Mary campus. He began his undergraduate work at Jamestown College, majoring in English and history. He then entered the seminary for the Diocese of Bismarck, earning a bachelor’s degree and a pontifical master’s degree (licentiate) in philosophy at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He studied classical Greek at the University of Texas at Austin and continued at the Vatican’s North American College, studying theology at the Gregorian and Lateran universities in Rome. He has studied management at the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business and is also an alumnus of the Institutes for Higher Education at the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University.

For more information on St. Gregory’s commencement ceremony, please visit our website at