Fr. Donohue named next President

Oscar Chicas

The Board of Trustees elected Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., as the University’s 32nd President, capping a six-month selection process on Dec. 13, 2005.

Current President Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A., initiated the selection process when he announced on June 27 his plans to step down from his position of 18 years.

“We are all greatly indebted to Father Dobbin for his 18 remarkable years of exceptional leadership,” said John Drosdick, chairman of the University Board of Trustees.

“We are very appreciative of all the significant advancements made by Villanova during his tenure. All one needs to do is tour our campus, engage in a conversation with students about our mission, review our national academic rankings and understand the outstanding qualifications of our student body, to realize the legacy he has left for Villanova.”

The new president’s term of office officially begins on June 1. Over the past two months Donohue has been privately meeting with Dobbin as he begins to acquaint himself with his next job. Donohue will begin meeting individually with the University’s vice presidents to discuss roles, process and priorities.

He said, “A top priority is to create inspiration among the students to do more service, be more proactive, and be aware of the power that we have in the world in which we live – we must create the ability to provide for others, connect to our Augustinian heritage, and educate those who are marginalized by bringing the ideals of Villanova to others.”

He said he would approach these priorities “by taking the time to listen to others, taking in ideas and seeing that as many people can contribute as possible.” He added, “I don’t have all the answers, but by working together as a community, we just might. This isn’t a one person job, and I hope to surround myself with creative, passionate people to be a part of that effort.”

He also mentioned his desire to maintain a close connection with the students, hoping to create an “open door atmosphere” for his office, reflecting the personality of this new president.

Donohue, who previously was chair of the theatre department, also spoke about a new performing arts center. “A school of this caliber needs a facility such as this where students can express their creative side in the arts, whether by performing in the various shows, or by viewing them,” he said.

The Board of Trustees expressed confidence in Donohue. “Father Donohue is an extraordinary choice to become Villanova’s 32nd president,” said Herbert F. Aspbury, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees and chair of the Presidential Special Committee. “He combines significant academic strengths with demonstrated administrative skills and tremendous charisma.”

Student response at the time of announcement was generally favorable.

“I’m glad that Father Donohue will be our new president,” said junior Patrick O’Brien. “In my time here at Villanova I’ve seen him lead students not only in the academic profession, but also in the Augustinian tradition, and I think he’ll do a great job leading the whole university in both respects.”

Added junior Alexis Whitaker, “It gives me great pleasure in knowing that someone who is so easily identifiable to our student body will be the face of Villanova. I’m happy for him, and I’m sure this isn’t the last feat on his list of many accomplishments.”

The 53-year-old Father Donohue was born in the Bronx, New York.

After being raised in a small town in Michigan, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the Order of Saint Augustine in 1979 after graduating from Villanova University in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree and a concentration in theatre/communication arts.

He received an M.A. in theatre from the Catholic University of America in 1983. In 1985, he also received a master’s of divinity from the Washington Theological Union.

In 1992, he received a Ph.D. in theatre from the University of Illinois, where he also received outstanding teaching honors.

Donohue is currently a tenured associate professor and has been the chairperson of Villanova’s theatre department since 1992.

He is a member of the Augustinian Institute Advisory Board and has served on numerous committees as a faculty representative at Villanova including the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Diversity Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee and the University Judicial Boards.

In addition he served on the NCAA Certification Self-Study committees of 1996-1997 and 2001-2002.

Donohue served two terms as a member of the Board of Trustees of Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.

“I thank the Board of Trustees for the honor and responsibility of leading Villanova University,” Donohue said. “I look forward to working closely with Father Dobbin in preparing for a smooth transition.”

Part of the transition will include traveling the country for fundraising interests – a crucial aspect to the role of any university president – and directing Vasey Theatre’s production of “Urinetown” in the spring.

In preparing for the transition out of the theatre department, Fr. Donohue has received help from Fr. David Cregan, who has served as an assistant by taking on many of Fr. Donohue’s responsibilities. However, Fr. Donohue knows the semester will not be easy.

“This semester will most certainly be a juggling act,” Donohue said, “between making the transition to university president and a heavy commitment to the theatre department. Thankfully, the community has stepped forward to help smooth the transition.”

Additional reporting was compiled by Alessandro Roco, news editor.