Sister Michele Aronica and Deacon James J. Knipper to lead GCU trustees
Sister of Mercy Michele Aronica, an academic leader, has been appointed the new chair of Georgian Court University’s board of trustees. She is joined by Deacon James J. Knipper of St. Paul Parish, Princeton, as vice-chair of GCU’s governing board.
“Sister Michele and Jim are exceptionally qualified leaders with decades of experience in higher education, management
, and religious service,” said GCU president Dr. Joseph R. Marbach. “Their demonstrated leadership skills will be pivotal to maintaining the highest standards of governance for our university. They have provided years of dedicated and thoughtful service to Georgian Court University.”
A Wealth of Experience
With more than three decades of experience as a dedicated professor, non-profit executive, and religious leader, Sister Michele is well-prepared to lead GCU’s board of trustees.
She served as a professor of sociology at St. Joseph’s College from 1978-2005 and 2011-2021. During her tenure at the college, she chaired the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice, and Social Work; led the Faculty Senate Executive Committee as president and vice president; and chaired multiple senate and institutional committees. As department chair, she led the development of new academic programs including hybrid programs in criminal justice and social justice, a concentration in social work, and the bachelor of social work degree.
She has recently been engaged as a consultant for leaders, and leading organizational change within institutions. Most personally to Sister Michele, she was significantly involved in developing the Northeast community of Sisters of Mercy by merging six separate communities into one.
Sister Michele has been a member of GCU’s board of trustees since 2017, serving on various committees, including Mission Integration, Academic and Student Affairs (most recently as chair), Governance, and the Executive Committee of the Board. She is also a member of the board of trustees for the Mercy Education System of the Americas and the University of Detroit Mercy, where she serves as chair of Academic Affairs and vice chair of the Enrollment Management and Student Life Committee.
Sister Michele obtained her master of arts in sociology from Long Island University and her doctor of philosophy in sociology from Boston College.
Deacon Knipper is currently in his second tenure as a GCU board of trustees member and follows his father, Joseph P. Knipper, who served as a trustee from 2002 to 2008. Deacon Knipper has served on several board committees and was co-chair of the GCU golf outing. He is the former CEO of J. Knipper and Company, Inc.
As a current member of the board of trustees for GCU and a member of the finance council of the Diocese of Trenton, Deacon Knipper is poised to play a leading role in Georgian Court’s future. He is also a member of the board of trustees for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
In 1981, Deacon Knipper graduated from the University of Scranton, Pa., with a degree in chemistry, and in 1984 he earned a master’s degree in business in the pharmaceutical industry from Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck. He also earned his master’s degree in theology from Georgian Court in May 2015 and was awarded an honorary degree from the university in May 2018.
When not serving his faith community of St. Paul’s, Deacon Knipper is a principal of Clear Faith Publishing LLC.
The board of trustees was previously led by chair Sister Julia Upton RSM, Ph.D., and vice-chair Megan Mulcahy Romano. They navigated an historic land deal that took place in March 2022.
Kenneth M. Esser, Jr., senior vice president of Behavioral Health CTS and Special Advisor to the CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, has also joined the university’s board of trustees.
Esser has served in a senior role with Hackensack Meridian Health since 2018, before which he led the development and implementation of PSE&G’s “utility of the future” strategy as their Manager, Program Growth and Strategy. His multi-decade career also spans the public sector, having served as the Chief Energy Advisor to the Office of the Governor of the State of New Jersey and as a policy advisor for Energy and Economic Growth for the NJDEP.