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Dr. Joseph J. McGowan

Joseph J. McGowan was appointed as Bellarmine University’s third president in 1990. He came to the position after serving for 22 years at Fordham University in New York as a vice president and dean. Prior to that he was an admissions and financial aid officer at the University of Notre Dame. He received his doctorate in higher education from Columbia University in New York and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame. He also is a graduate of Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management.

Dr. McGowan led the transformation of Bellarmine College to Bellarmine University, which has been named as the region’s best comprehensive university by U.S. News and World Report for 17 consecutive years. The Princeton Review ranks Bellarmine University as one of the nation’s top colleges.

During Dr. McGowan’s 20-year tenure, Bellarmine University has made remarkable strides in academic life, student life, campus environment, and financial well-being. Some highlights since 1990:

  • Twenty-six new undergraduate academic degree and certification programs and six graduate degree programs, including two doctorates, were added.
  • A School of Education, a School of Communication, a School of Continuing and Professional Studies, a Center for Regional Environmental Studies and an Institute for Media, Culture and Ethics were established, and the Lansing School of Nursing expanded to include Health Sciences.
  • The Rubel School of Business achieved accreditation for both its undergraduate and graduate programs from AACSB, a distinction held by less than 15 percent of business schools worldwide.
  • Enrollment increased nearly 24 percent, to 3,132 in fall 2010.
  • The university’s endowment has more than quadrupled, from $7.65 million in 1990 to $32.8 million at the close of the 2009-10 fiscal year.
  • Intercollegiate sports teams increased from 12 to 19, including the launching of the very successful NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse team.
  • The number of students living on campus has nearly quadrupled, to a record 1,009 in the fall 2010 semester. Forty-five percent of full-time undergraduate students currently live on campus.
  • Extensive building and renovation projects have provided the Bellarmine community with wonderful teaching and living space. New buildings have nearly tripled the square footage on campus, to 856,171 square feet as of August 2010. Facilities design has merited 11 architecture awards.


Dr. McGowan is active in the civic, professional, and service life of the community, state and nation. Most recently, he has served on the boards of:

  • National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (Chair, 2009-10)
  • American Council on Higher Education
  • Greater Louisville Inc., Executive Committee
  • Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities
  • Kentuckiana Metroversity
  • Frazier International History Museum
  • Speed Art Museum
  • Greater Louisville Health Enterprises Network
  • $22M Metro United Way Campaign, Chair

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