Georgetown University yesterday named Senior Vice President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79) as its 48th president. DeGioia will be the first layperson at the nation’s oldest Catholic university, and the first lay president at any of the nation’s 28 Jesuit colleges and universities.

“I’m honored to take on this new role and to continue working with our distinguished faculty, staff, students, Jesuits, alumni and friends,” DeGioia said yesterday. “This is a challenging and exciting time to be in higher education. Georgetown’s unique mission as a Catholic and Jesuit student-centered research university has never been more important on the national higher education landscape.”

On July 1, DeGioia, 44, will succeed University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., who has occupied the position since 1989.

Presidential Search Committee Chair Hans P. Ziegler (FLL ’63) said that the board of directors unanimously approved DeGioia.

Both Jesuit Community Rector Brian O. McDermott, S.J., and Ziegler said that the choice of a non-Jesuit president does not indicate a change in the university’s mission and focus.

“This is a strong affirmation of the mission and identity of the university,” McDermott said. “He personally embodies what Georgetown University wants to come to pass.”

DeGioia comes to the presidency after a career spent at Georgetown, most recently as senior vice president since 1998, where he was involved with many of the financial, operational and administrative aspects of the university.

Ziegler said that DeGioia is highly qualified for the position, citing his “extensive administrative, operation and financial experience.”

“We wanted someone dedicated to what this university is all about,” Ziegler said. “He has a real appreciation for academic activities, scholarship and building outstanding relationships with faculty.”

O’Donovan said that he was pleased with the selection of DeGioia.

“I deeply appreciated his dedicated service to Georgetown during my years as president,” O’Donovan said. “In his new capacity, I know that he will find the many joys that I have had in working with the remarkable students, faculty, staff, Jesuits, alumni, volunteers and friends who call Georgetown home.”

While most officials are pleased with the selection of DeGioia, one prominent Catholic official has expressed concern with the selection of a layman.

“While many of us were hoping that a Jesuit priest might be found for the leadership of this important Jesuit institution, I welcome Dr. John DeGioia,” said Cardinal-delegate Theodore cCarrick of the Washington Archdiocese. “He is known and respected as a fine Catholic educator.”

Board of Directors Chair John R. Kennedy (C ’52) said that DeGioia will be a credit to Georgetown.

“He appreciates academic excellence deeply and has earned a reputation as an excellent teacher,” Kennedy said. “I am delighted that the next president of Georgetown comes from Georgetown.”

Presidential Search Committee member Anthony Arend of the government department said that DeGioia is “an absolutely inspired choice for president of Georgetown University.”

“Jack identifies the Jesuit philosophy thoroughly,” Arend said. “He is a committed Catholic who identifies with Jesuit spirituality.”

Arend, who also chairs the Main Campus Executive Faculty, said that among the most important of DeGioia’s skills that he will bring to the presidency is his familiarity with the university.

“He knows Georgetown – he knows the institution.”

“Jack is an outstanding person who has a vision for Georgetown and is someone who can articulate that vision,” Arend said.

Brian Walsh (COL ’02), a student in DeGioia’s Philosophy and Literature of Human Rights class, said that he enjoys DeGioia’s class.

“He’s a dynamic professor,” Walsh said. “He does a great job relating to students.”

“I think he’s going to be great,” GUSA President Tawan Davis (COL ’01) said. “He’s been committed to students as individuals and to their collective concerns.”

Board member and Jesuit Community Rector Brian O. McDermott, S.J., said that DeGioia is “profoundly aware of Georgetown’s culture and values.”

“We indicated that we were looking for the best and most qualified candidates,” Ziegler said. “We determined that that was Dr. DeGioia.”

After graduating in 1979, DeGioia served as an assistant to then-University President Timothy J. Healy, S.J., from 1982-85. He was then appointed dean of Student Affairs, a position he held until l992.

In 1998, he became senior vice president, a position that oversees the university’s financial affairs, information technology, facilities, student housing, human resources, athletics, financial strategy, capital projects and technology strategy. During his tenure, Georgetown negotiated an agreement with MedStar Health Systems to jointly operate the financially troubled Georgetown University Medical Center.

DeGioia earned his bachelor’s degree in English in 1979 and received his Ph. D. in philosophy in 1995. He currently is a professor in the philosophy department, co-teaching Philosophy and Literature of Human Rights this along with vice president for Communications Daniel Porterfield.

DeGioia inherits the reins to a university that has seen its endowment nearly triple to more than $740 million during O’Donovan’s presidency. Georgetown is in the middle of a billion-dollar capital campaign, the Third Century Campaign, which is designed to further augment the endowment. The university is also conducting a major construction project, the Southwest Quadrangle, which will add 780 beds, a new dining hall and a new Jesuit residence to the campus.

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