Dr. John Cappucci, principal and vice-chancellor of Assumption University in Windsor, Ont. Photo courtesy John Cappucci

Assumption principal aims to put school ‘back on the map’

By 
  • October 31, 2021

One of the cherished possessions in Dr. John Cappucci’s office at Assumption University is a plaque bearing Jeremiah 29:11:

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ”

Prospering is on the mind of the principal and vice-chancellor of this Catholic postsecondary institution federated with the University of Windsor. Very aware of Assumption High School and Our Lady of Assumption Parish boasting deep historical roots in the gateway city of Windsor, Ont., Cappucci is working to devise ways for the university to stand out.

“I really want to accomplish putting Assumption back on the map,” said Cappucci, who completed a doctorate at Carleton University, a Master of Arts at Queen’s University and a Bachelor of Arts from Windsor University. “There is sometimes confusion with Assumption Church and Assumption High School that are both well known. Assumption University is not as well known.”

Cappucci first assumed the interim principal role in September 2019. In June 2020, he was tapped as principal and vice-chancellor for a six-year term, becoming the 29th leader of the university. Assumption University — originally Assumption College — was founded in 1857.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, an installation ceremony for Cappucci was not a possibility last autumn. Thanks to a brightening public health outlook in the Windsor-Essex region, the installation was celebrated Oct. 26 at Our Lady of Assumption. London Bishop Ronald Fabbro, chancellor of Assumption University, presided over the installation ceremony. 

Reflecting on his two years as principal, Cappucci says there have been substantive steps made towards revitalization. He oversaw the updating of the school’s mission and vision statements, shepherded a revamped website and resurrected the Fr. Joe Quinn Social Justice Series, which earlier this year drew a record high 1,600 students and teachers to a presentation by environmentalist Simon Jackson, famed for preserving the habitat of the Kermode bear since he was 13. 

Cappucci’s extensive work in reinvigorating Assumption University is complemented by his position as vice-chair of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada. He was immediately captivated by this organization from his very first meeting as an attendee.

“When I went into the room, there was probably the most positive energy, sense of friendship and solidarity that I had ever felt in a meeting before. And I said to myself, ‘this is a group I really want to be a part of.’ ”

While his administrative workload is robust, Cappucci continues to dive headfirst into academic research. A few of his research projects include The Persistent Prejudice: Contemporary Antisemitism in Canadian Region and Shi’ism: A Religion of Protest among others

Speaking about his own faith, Cappucci said he treasures the wholeness of Catholicism.

“What’s always struck me about Catholicism is the name Catholicism, which derives from the word universal,” he said. “Catholicism is not just about Catholicism — it is about a lot more. It is about Catholicism’s relationship to other religions and other Christian denominations.

“Throughout my term I stress that. My own research is on anti-Semitism, and you have people say that’s very unique for a Catholic university to study. Yes, because that is what we are called to do. We are trying to demonstrate to students that we are expanding our horizons to incorporate various Christian traditions and also other religious and spiritual traditions.”

Alluding to the plaque of Jeremiah 29:11 on his desk, Cappucci says it is purposeful.

“I keep it as a reminder that what I am doing is good and that God won’t lead me astray. I keep it close to my desk and I keep the words close to my heart.”

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