Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D., became Bellarmine University’s fourth president in February 2017 following 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; reduced debt and increased the 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 allows the university to share its story on a larger stage than ever.
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.
In the community, Dr. Donovan serves on the boards of the Muhammad Ali Center, Impetus, Greater Louisville Inc, and the advisory council of the Young Professionals Association of Louisville. Additionally, she serves on the executive committee of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities board. In 2019, Louisville Business First named Dr. Donovan one of the city's most admired CEOs, and in 2021, she was named to Louisville 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 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, and they have twins.