Francesco Cesareo

Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D. is an American educator and historian. In February 2007, he was selected to become the 16th president of Assumption College, and assumed the presidency on July 1, 2007. Prior to his selection, Dr. Cesareo served as dean of the McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Prior to this, he served a position as professor at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.[1]


Dr. Cesareo, a historian who specializes in the Renaissance and Reformation periods, has published widely on the Catholic Reformation, the history of 15th and 16th century Rome and on the Renaissance papacy. His work has also focused on Renaissance education, church history and Roman Catholic higher education. He has also been a frequent commentator for local and national media on issues regarding Catholic higher education and the Catholic Church in general.

Prior to his 2004 appointment at Duquesne University, Dr. Cesareo was a member of the history department at John Carroll University from 1989 to 2004. In 1997 he was appointed the founding director of the Institute of Catholic Studies, a position he held until 2004. He also was the holder of the John J. and Mary Jane Breen Chair in Catholic Studies. As director of the Institute he successfully raised an endowment of $4.8 million for the work of the Institute.

In addition to being a dedicated teacher, nominated three times for the Distinguished Faculty Award at John Carroll University, and an accomplished scholar of the Catholic intellectual tradition, Dr. Cesareo has served on many boards and received numerous fellowships. He is the author of two books, including, A Shepherd in Their Midst: The Episcopacy of Girolamo Seripando: 1554–1563, and of numerous articles and book reviews. He has also served as a Fulbright Scholar at both the University of Rome and the Pontifical Gregorian University in Italy, and completed a year-long Faculty Fellowship for Academic Leadership supported by the Mandel Foundation.

Additionally, Dr. Cesareo has served as the managing editor of Archivum Historicum Societatis Iesu, an international scholarly journal published semi-annually by the Jesuit Historical Institute in Rome and the Institute of Catholic Studies at John Carroll University, and completed administrative development programs at Harvard University and Boston College.

In 2013, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, appointed President Cesareo to chair the National Review Board, which advises the bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection.

Election to college presidency

Upon the announcement of Dr. Thomas R. Plough, the college’s 15th president, that he would retire at the end of the 2006-2007 academic year after nine years in the position a nationwide presidential search process began. Dr. Cesareo was among 55 applicants for the presidency. He was named the College’s 16th President in February 2007.

In his July 1, 2007 Inauguration announcement Cesareo pledged to continue Assumption’s educational tradition of combining Catholic values with intellectual rigor.

“Higher education has become more vocational and less interested in the engagement of ideas and the cultivation of moral and spiritual values that will truly form and transform the essence of the human heart,” he said. “As a Catholic liberal arts and professional studies college, Assumption will strive to prepare its students for a lifetime of learning, not simply for a job.

As Assumption President

Since his arrival at Assumption, President Cesareo has helped shepherd several new academic programs such as the first-year Tagaste Program, SOPHIA (the Sophomore Initiative at Assumption) and the College’s new Rome campus, opened in spring 2013. The College has developed numerous articulation agreements with national universities as well as new majors and minors in subject such as criminology, education, neuroscience and sport management. The Princeton Review consistently identifies Assumption as one of the “Best Colleges in the Northeast” and is highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Cesareo has also been an ardent defender of the liberal arts and their role in modern higher education. In his 2013 Convocation address he stated that "The future will still need the human skills that the liberal arts promote, and perhaps will need them more than ever: communication, interpretation, linking and synthesizing domains of knowledge, and imbuing facts with meaning and value...The liberal arts has also been part of the fabric of American society from its beginnings. The founding fathers understood that their experiment in republican government – a government bound by law and rooted in the consent of the governed depends on citizens who can think critically, understand their own history, and give voice to their beliefs while respecting the views of others."

During his tenure, Assumption’s endowment has risen to $101 million and the College has achieved/maintained an A- S&P rating. In addition, he has helped raised nearly $15 million for Assumption, including the full-funding of the Tinsley Campus Ministry Center, several endowed chairs, D’amour donation for faculty development, and the expansion of the Foundations of Western Civilization program. The College has been consistently named as to The Princeton Review’s "Best in the Northeast" List.

On March 17, 2014, the Assumption College Board of Trustees announced that it had extended Cesareo’s contract to remain in his position as president of the institution for an additional five years, beginning July 1, 2015 and extending through June 30, 2020.

Educational and personal background

Dr. Cesareo graduated summa cum laude from Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in Douglaston, New York, and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Late Medieval/Early Modern European history from Fordham University.

He and his wife, Filomena, are the parents of three children, including Gianfranco Cesareo.


Board Memberships


Educational offices
Preceded by
Thomas R. Plough (1998-2007)
President of Assumption College
Francesco Cesareo (2007-)
Succeeded by
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