Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D., became Bellarmine University’s fourth president in February 2017 following a 32-year career at Loyola University Maryland.
In her first year, Bellarmine improved undergraduate retention; reduced debt and increased the endowment; saw record-breaking fundraising; and expanded its campus by purchasing the Watterson Medical Center.
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 as the university moves toward even greater prominence and impact locally, regionally and nationally.
In June 2019, Bellarmine 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. The move allows the university to share its story on a larger stage than ever.
In only their second year in Division I, the Knights won the ASUN men’s basketball championship—and then dominated the national conversation when NCAA rules prevented the Knights from playing in the NCAA Tournament. The unusual situation generated 3.7 billion media impressions over seven days and coverage in national outlets.
Dr. Donovan is known for her commitment to cura personalis, care for the whole person, and her goal is that every student will be educated in mind, body and spirit while following a personal path to success. She demonstrated this with her sure leadership during COVID-19, keeping the campus open and safe throughout the process.
Collaborating with a steering committee of Trustees, members of Cabinet, faculty and staff, Dr. Donovan updated the strategic plan and vision in the 2022-23 academic year. The result, Bellarmine Forward, focuses on health care, business and the liberal arts foundation. She has also successfully pushed to increase the diversity of the student body.
In the community, Dr. Donovan serves on the boards of Impetus and Greater Louisville Inc. In 2019, Louisville Business First named her one of the city's most admired CEOs, and in 2021, she was named to Business First’s inaugural Power 50, a list of the most influential members of the business community.
Dr. Donovan holds a Ph.D. in higher education from St. Louis University, a master’s in higher education from Florida State University and a bachelor’s in communications from Buena Vista University. She and her husband, Dr. Bill Donovan, a retired associate professor of Latin American history, are the parents of twins.