University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., announced his intention to retire to the student body last March. Now, nearly one year later, his plans for that retirement have become clearer.

With last week’s selection of John J. DeGioia as Georgetown’s next president, O’Donovan’s retirement looms ever larger as the plans for his succession are now in place. He has only 127 more days before ending his 12-year tenure at Georgetown.

In an interview with The Hoya the day of DeGioia’s announcement, O’Donovan outlined his plans for the future.

O’Donovan’s immediate plans take him back to New York City, where he was born and raised, and where he said he will spend time writing and relaxing after a strenuous and often controversial tenure as president.

Forty-four years after his graduation from Georgetown, O’Donovan suggested he might publish some of his earlier work and continue writing on systematic theology, his specialty.

During his first year as president of Georgetown, O’Donovan kept a journal about becoming a university president, and said he may publish that along with work students and friends have encouraged him to collect. Among these include over 300 pages of sermons, prayers and theological writing. Despite his high administrative position, O’Donovan has been a professor of theology throughout his tenure in addition to being the Chief Executive Officer of the university.

O’Donovan, 65, won’t be deciding what projects to pursue and when to do them until he “spends some time on the beach.”

He said he may collect 20 previously published art criticisms to work into a future publication.

When he chose to take the position of university president, O’Donovan said he was well aware of the community he would be leading and teaching, but knew that the biggest challenge would be to take over as the CEO of a multi-billion dollar business with thousands of employees and a struggling endowment and financial situation.

O’Donovan, however, hasn’t enjoyed an unblemished record at Georgetown. Controversy erupted during his tenure concerning the university’s adherence to its Catholic roots and traditions, as well as whether Georgetown has done enough to embrace diversity, religious pluralism and a more secular culture.

Most recently, O’Donovan dealt with campus concerns following the vandalization of a menorah during Hanukkah in December 1999, and presided over a campus embroiled in controversy after an on-campus homicide which claimed the life of junior David Shick nearly one year ago.

Predecessor Timothy S. Healy, S.J., presided over an even more controversial tenure than O’Donovan, even though Healy was the first at the university to recognize a need for a massive refocusing of energy toward the university’s finances. During Healy’s 13-year term, the university’s endowment expanded by 600 percent from $36 million to $216 million.

O’Donovan has far exceeded even Healy in fundraising. He spearheaded the Third Century Campaign, which aims to bring nearly $1 billion to the university by the end of 2002. The last estimate put the endowment at over $612.5 million, according to the Office of Alumni and University Relations.

O’Donovan said he is happy with the progress the university has made on the endowment and fundraising, but indicated there is a need to continue building finances. “Jack [DeGioia] will be great at that,” O’Donovan said.

When he set foot again on Georgetown’s campus in 1989, O’Donovan immediately looked to expand campus facilities while working to ensure the Southwest Quadrangle Project would begin before his departure. The project will add a new dining hall, Jesuit residence and 780-bed dormitory behind Village C. DeGioia said the project would assure that 90 percent of students were housed on campus.

The president also oversaw the sale of the debt-ridden Georgetown University Medical Center to MedStar Health Systems with the help of DeGioia and other top administrators.

O’Donovan said he has enjoyed his time leading Georgetown.

“The trust of leading this institution has been such an inestimable privilege, I can’t express,” he said. At last years’ announcement he told students “it is a good time for the university and me . to pass along the baton.” (“O’Donovan to Step Down in June 2001,” Mar. 21, 2000, p. 1)

O’Donovan also said he was making the announcement early so the board of directors “has an opportunity to find a great president.”

As the mantle of university stewardship falls upon DeGioia, he will live in the shadow of a predecessor who made his mark, both through dealing with and overcoming adversity.

Staff Writers Tom Johnson and Andy Amend contributed to this report.

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