In 1994, the New Jersey native was a seminarian at Seton Hall University when he noticed an ad for Franciscan University on the back of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. “Be Bold, Be Catholic, Be Educated,” it proclaimed.
“There have been about six to seven times in my life where I felt like God was talking to me, and that was one of them,” Hickey recalls. “I had never heard of the place before, but I could feel I was being called. Of course, this was back before the Internet, so I had to get a map out to even find Steubenville!”
When Hickey arrived at the University, his plan was to complete his undergraduate degree in social work, then enter seminary for the Franciscan TORs in Loretto. That stayed the plan until January 1996, when Hickey was playing basketball in Finnegan Fieldhouse. He glanced over and saw, for the first time, Jen McInnis ’96. Immediately he knew he wasn’t going to Loretto.
“It took me so long to discern and decide on the seminary,” he says. “I thought deciding not to go would take just as long. But it didn’t. It took five seconds. That was another time I heard God speaking.”
Eleven months later, just two days after completing his last final exam, the couple was married.
Over the next 25 years, Bob held numerous jobs in fundraising and sales—for a religious order, a Catholic university, Key Bank, and eventually the Diocese of Cleveland. There, he was centrally involved in the diocese’s Rooted in Faith, Forward in Hope capital campaign that raised over $175 million for critical areas of parish life, education, Catholic Charities, and evangelization.
Even though he’s moved away from the city, Hickey is still a diehard Cleveland sports fan.
In between those jobs, he came back to Steubenville—first in 1998 to work in the Financial Aid Office while earning his MBA, then again in 2008 to manage Franciscan’s last capital campaign.
Finally, in June 2021, Hickey returned to Franciscan to direct the Rebuild My Church Campaign.
“I wanted to help,” he explains. “And after 10 and half years as director of Development for the Diocese of Cleveland, I felt equipped and prepared to do that.”
Just three months after arriving in Steubenville, Franciscan’s former vice president of Advancement, Tom Pappalardo, retired, and Hickey was asked to take his place. Fortunately for Franciscan, he said yes.
“I love the University,” he concludes. “Everything good in my life, I attribute to the University in some way. I have nothing but gratitude for this school, and the opportunity to be a part of this, to work with Father Dave and such an amazing team in the Advancement Office, was too good to pass up.”
Hickey received both his BA in social work (1997) and MBA (2001) from Franciscan University. He and his wife, Jen, have eight children, two of whom are Franciscan graduates and two of whom are current students.
He and his family recently celebrated the birth of a new grandbaby—Zeile. “A new grandbaby,” he says, “is the greatest thing ever.”