Known for her deep understanding of higher education and her commitment to cura personalis, care for the whole person, Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D., became Bellarmine University’s fourth president in February 2017. Dr. Donovan, the unanimous choice of Bellarmine’s Presidential Search Committee and Board of Trustees, previously enjoyed a 32-year career at Loyola University Maryland, where she had been executive vice president since 2011, including a term as acting president in 2015.
In Dr. Donovan’s first year, Bellarmine improved undergraduate retention; improved its financial standing by reducing debt and increasing endowment; saw record-breaking fundraising; and expanded its campus by purchasing the Watterson Medical Center, an 80,000-square-foot healthcare facility on 7.3 acres at 3430 Newburg Road that is adjacent to Bellarmine’s new sports park.
Dr. Donovan also pushed for increased shared governance and transparency and began a comprehensive strategic planning process. The result was 2019’s “Tradition and Transformation,” a plan that clarifies and affirms Bellarmine’s long-term vision, strategies and goals and provides direction for the next five to seven years as the university moves toward even greater prominence and impact locally, regionally and nationally.
In June 2019, Dr. Donovan announced that Bellarmine had achieved a key initiative in the strategic plan by accepting an invitation from the ASUN Conference to move to NCAA Division I in 2020, making Bellarmine the only private DI university in Kentucky, and one of the few Division I Catholic universities in the South. The move will allow the university to share its story on a larger stage than ever and recruit from states where the college-going population is diverse and growing.
In the community, Dr. Donovan serves on the boards of the Muhammad Ali Center and the Steering Committee to Advance the Louisville Agenda, and the advisory council of the Young Professionals Association of Louisville. Among other honors, she received the John Fisher Alumni Award at Buena Vista University in 2014 and the Reverend Victor R. Yanitelli, S.J. Award from the Jesuit Association of Student Affairs Administrators (JASPA) in 2010.
Dr. Donovan holds a Ph.D. in higher education from St. Louis University, a master’s degree in higher education from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Buena Vista University. She is married to Dr. Bill Donovan, an associate professor of Latin American history. The Donovans have twin daughters, Meghan and Caitlin.