University President-elect John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79) pledged Friday to uphold Georgetown’s academic excellence and Catholic and Jesuit identity in the face of financial and other challenges when he takes over as its first lay president next year.

DeGioia marked his public debut as university president-elect by speaking to the student and professional press and then being presented by university administrators in the ICC Galleria.

DeGioia’s tenure, which begins July 1, will have to deal with issues including the university’s continued need for fundraising, its hospital partnership with MedStar Health Systems and its commitment to providing medical education in the face of high expenses, outgoing University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., said.

O’Donovan referred to DeGioia, who played a key role in negotiating MedStar Health’s takeover of the fiscally troubled Medical Center’s clinical enterprise, as a highly capable and experienced administrator well known throughout the university community. “He is a marvelous choice as Georgetown’s 48th president,” O’Donovan said.

DeGioia, 44, has filled several postions at Georgetown. He began his career in 1982 as special assistant to former University President Timothy S. Healy, S.J., and has since been dean of students, chief administrative officer and senior vice president. He has taught philosophy since earning his Ph.D. from Georgetown in 1995.

DeGioia acknowledged Friday that the university is “under-endowed in comparison to the schools that we are competing with” and stressed the need to ensure the success of the $1 billion Third Century Campaign fund drive. However, he expressed optimism about both his own fundraising capacities and Georgetown’s financial outlook.

“First, we have been successful in securing the future of the Medical Center with the transaction with MedStar. We no longer have the risk of running a clinical enterprise that we once did. I think second, and perhaps more important, is that our Third Century Campaign has been successful beyond our wildest imagination . And third, the heart and soul of this institution is our student body, the quality of our student body and the quality of our faculty, and both have remained exceptionally strong.”

Another important task DeGioia discussed Friday was Georgetown’s implementation of the church’s controversial Ex Corde Ecclesiae policy that seeks to give bishops a stronger role in overseeing education at Catholic universities.

DeGioia said he was very pleased with the current status of the policy’s terms of implementation, which he said would respect the school’s academic integrity.

“I think the commitment to Georgetown’s academic freedom has been made very clear throughout this process,” he said.

DeGioia also spoke enthusiastically about working with the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and collaborating with Jesuit Community Rector Brian O. McDermott, S.J., to maintain Georgetown’s Catholic character.

Reflecting on his appointment as president, DeGioia said, “I have been raised in a church animated by the spirit of the Second Vatican Council. I have been taught that the laity must be prepared to assume greater responsibility in partnership with the clergy as stewards the Catholic and Jesuit university and the church itself.”

“I look forward to partnering with him as rector of the community, and the Jesuit community looks forward to partnering with him, and we pledge our support and our wholehearted enthusiastic cooperation and collaboration,” McDermott said.

Begininng in 1975 as an undergraduate student, DeGioia brings to the job 26 years at Georgetown. O’Donovan, who has been president since 1989, said DeGioia gained valuable experience working closely with Healy before becoming dean of students at age 28 and subsequently joining the university’s central administration.

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