Bellarmine University’s Board of Trustees has unanimously appointed Dr. Susan M. Donovan as the university’s fourth president
. Donovan, who begins work on July 1, is currently Loyola University Maryland’s executive vice president.
The Bellarmine community can greet President-designate Donovan on Wednesday, February 22, at 3 p.m. in Frazier Hall.
At Loyola - a comprehensive liberal arts university in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition - Donovan has served as executive vice president since 2011, including a term as acting president in 2015. In 32 years at Loyola, she also worked as vice president for student development, dean of students, dean of residence life and interim vice president for advancement. Early in her career, she reported to the provost and sat on the dean's council for seven years. Donovan was a member of the institutional governing bodies, including the academic senate, for more than 20 years. She began her higher education career while pursuing her doctoral studies at St. Louis University, working in student housing and operations.
“Few institutions have made more progress than Bellarmine University in the last 25 years,” Donovan said. “I am delighted to lead Bellarmine, with an emphasis on strategic initiatives aimed at improving academic excellence, the student experience and our level of community engagement in Louisville and the region.”
Donovan said her career working in Catholic universities has prepared her to lead Bellarmine. “Our mission calls us to be a shelter in the storm of indifference, a beacon of hope for justice, a path out of poverty, and a companion to the disenfranchised people at the margins,” she said. “This transformation of the heart happens through our teaching, scholarship, meaningful service and civic engagement.”
Donovan, 58, 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’s degree in communications from Buena Vista University. She also attended Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management.
“Dr. Donovan was a key figure at Loyola during a period of transformational growth, much like our own, and the trustees know she will be an exceptional leader here at Bellarmine,” said Pat Mulloy, chairman of Bellarmine’s Board of Trustees.
Mulloy said Donovan is a principled and experienced higher education leader who will embrace Bellarmine’s mission and vision, and work closely with faculty, staff, students and alumni — along with leaders in Louisville and throughout the region -- to further enhance the university’s academic offerings, campus facilities and fiscal strength.
Donovan’s appointment is the result of an extensive global search led by a committee of trustees that also included representatives from the faculty, staff, student body, alumni and the Louisville community. Last fall, the search committee held community-wide and small group meetings to help develop the president’s job description and position profile, which included identifying opportunities and challenges for the new president.
Ernest W. Marshall, a Bellarmine alumnus, trustee and co-chair of the search committee, said Donovan “has a proven track record of collaborating with all constituencies to drive change. She understands the core mission of Bellarmine. Her leadership will continue the great legacy of the University.”
Matisa Wilbon, a Bellarmine faculty member who also served on the search committee, called Donovan “smart, collaborative, inclusive and focused. She has purposely lived out the tenets of social justice, and she understands the importance of a Catholic, liberal arts institution – especially in the world today.”
Donovan will lead an independent Catholic university that has steadily grown to serve nearly 4,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in schools of business, communication, continuing and professional studies, education, environmental studies, and nursing and health sciences, along with the Bellarmine College of Arts and Sciences.
Donovan’s husband, Dr. Bill Donovan, is an associate professor of Latin American history. They have twin daughters who are college sophomores. PREVIOUS BELLARMINE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS
Monsignor Alfred F. Horrigan, 1950-1972
Dr. Eugene V. Petrik, 1973-1990
Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, 1990-2016 Interim president Dr. Doris Tegart has led Bellarmine since the death of the university’s longest-serving president, Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, in March 2016.