BEVERLY — Steven DiSalvo had heard about Endicott College and its scenic oceanside campus. But it wasn't until he visited the Beverly school for the first time recently that he realized what he had been missing.
"I had no idea until I stepped foot on campus how beautiful it really was," he said. "You get there and you just fall in love with the place."
Starting July 1, DiSalvo will be more than an impressed visitor. Endicott College announced on Wednesday that DiSalvo, the current president at Saint Anselm College, will become the seventh president in Endicott's history.
DiSalvo, 57, will be charged with leading the college into its next phase following the death last year of Richard Wylie, the longtime president who built Endicott from a two-year women's school into a four-year co-educational college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. Wylie, who began his teaching career in Gloucester, was at the helm when Endicott opened a Gloucester campus at 33 Commercial St., offering teaching and learning space for undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as in corporate education, workforce development, and community activities.
Kathleen Barnes, a longtime Endicott administrator, has been serving as interim president and will remain with the college.
DiSalvo announced last year that he would step down as president of Saint Anselm, a Catholic college in Manchester, New Hampshire. He will conclude his tenure there on June 30 and begin at Endicott the next day.
"I'm thrilled," he said. "I think it's a great fit for me, and I think it's a great fit for the school with my background."
DiSalvo has been president at Saint Anselm since 2013 and is credited with increasing enrollment and the school's endowment. Before that, he was president of Marian University in Wisconsin for three years. He has also worked as president and CEO of the Hopewell Group, a philanthropic advising firm, and as executive director of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which helps children heal from traumatic violence and abuse.
DiSalvo said Saint Anselm recently completed a capital campaign and several capital improvement projects, including a new student center and dormitory, and that he was ready to move on to a bigger college. Saint Anselm has about 2,000 students, while Endicott has more than 5,000.
"We had a pretty aggressive agenda and I did all the major brick-and-mortar projects," he said. "The question was, would I stay on for the next phase? I really felt it was time for a new set of eyes to look at this institution, and that a larger, more complex institution is the next step for me."
DiSalvo will take over at Endicott College at a time when many small private colleges are struggling to survive. But, he said, Endicott is in good financial shape, including a growing endowment that is now at about $93 million.
He said Endicott has been helped by revenue-generating graduate programs, and by the Wylie Inn and Conference Center, which also brings in money. He said the many new buildings that have gone up on campus were built without taking on a lot of debt.
"There are schools that are struggling and schools that are thriving. I put Endicott College in the thriving category," he said. "They were very smart in identifying sources of revenue."
DiSalvo grew up in Queens in New York City and was the first in his family to attend college. He said his parents worked multiple jobs to help put him through Fordham University, where he earned three degrees, including a doctorate in educational leadership and administration.
He met his wife, Eileen, who lived in the next town over, when they were 16. They have been married for 27 years and have three grown sons.
"Being a part of the community is important to me and my wife," he said. "We have relatives in Peabody and friends in Marblehead. It's a comfortable place for us to be."
DiSalvo was chosen out of a field of more than 100 applicants, which was narrowed to 12 candidates who were interviewed by a search committee. In a statement announcing DiSalvo's appointment, Endicott board of trustees chair Cynthia Merkle called him "truly a perfect match with Endicott's hands-on model of professional and liberal arts education."
As for succeeding Wylie, DiSalvo acknowledged he has big shoes to fill. He said he has experience in that regard, having taken over at Saint Anselm from a president who had served for 24 years.
"Now I'm going to make the same mistake twice," he said with a laugh. "Never follow a legend. But I learned how to do it."
Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.