By Liz McDonaldHoya Staff Writer

Former Senior Vice President John J. DeGioia assumed the Georgetown University presidency July 1, marking the first time a lay person has filled the executive office of any of the nation’s 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. DeGioia succeeded Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., as the university’s 48th president.

“During the last few months, I have been coordinating closely with Fr. O’Donovan, the Board of Directors, campus leaders and members of the faculty to prepare for the presidential transition,” DeGioia said in July. “There are a great many issues that I am looking forward to addressing – from the recruitment of key academic leaders to the development of our financial strategy; from working with terrific classes of students, to building new partnerships in the city and region.”

A series of events have been planned to celebrate the presidential transition on October 11-14 including an inaugural ceremony and mass, student and staff celebrations, faculty academic symposia and a jazz concert featuring musician Dave Brubeck.

“I look forward to a series of events that will celebrate Georgetown’s rich traditions and bold promise for the future while highlighting our continued academic excellence, strong Catholic and Jesuit identity and commitment to social justice,” Chairman of the Board of Directors John R. Kennedy (C ’52) wrote in a letter published on the university’s Web site concerning the presidential transition.

While past presidents have lived in the on-campus Jesuit residence, the university recently purchased a residence on Parkglen Court in Northwest Washington, D.C. for Georgetown’s first First Family. DeGioia and his wife Theresa (CAS ’79) moved into the $1.4 million home just prior to the arrival of their newborn son, John Thomas, on June 10.

According to Assistant Vice President for Communications Julie Green Bataille, the residence will serve only as the president’s short-term home. A committee of the board of directors will soon begin looking for other properties in the Georgetown community to permanently serve as the president’s residence.

“In the future, [the] residence [on Parkglen Court] may be used to house other members of the university community,” Green Bataille said.

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

A professor in the philosophy department, DeGioia obtained his bachelor’s degree in English in 1979 and his doctorate in philosophy in 1995. He served as an assistant to then-University President Timothy J. Healy, S.J., from 1982 to 1985 and was then appointed dean of student affairs, a position he held until 1992.

GUSA president Ryan Dubose (COL ’02) considers the student body “thrilled about Dr. DeGioia being selected.” DuBose speculated that the man who “carries with him a knowledge of Georgetown traditions from the past quarter century, as well as the overall University’s mission” will likely increase attention to extracurricular matters, such as initiatives in social justice and human rights.

On June 30, O’Donovan stepped down from his 12-year tenure as president. In a farewell letter to faculty, staff and alumni, he reflected on the university’s commitment to traditional Jesuit ideals.

“I feel even more blessed for the opportunity to serve our university,” O’Donovan wrote. “I have had the privilege of working closely with members of an extraordinary learning community and with many alumni and friends of Georgetown across the globe, who have in so many ways dedicated themselves to being `true men and women for others.'”

As president, O’Donovan is celebrated for leading the $1 billion Third Century Campaign, the most successful fundraising campaign in Georgetown’s history. He is also said to have been essential in resolving the Medical Center financial crisis last year by arranging a clinical partnership between the Medical Center and MedStar Health Systems. MedStar Health now owns, operates and has financial responsibility for the Georgetown University Hospital. However, under the partnership, the university still maintains control of the research and academic enterprises at the Medical Center.

The board of directors recently announced that several scholarships will be created in O’Donovan’s name and in the name of his mother and father. Additionally, the new dining hall in the Southwest Quadrangle, another project brought to completion during O’Donovan’s presidency, will be named after him.

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