Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, Named 29th President of Santa Clara University
19, 2019 — Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, a theologian, Jesuit priest and educator, has
been named the 29th president of Santa Clara University. He succeeds Fr. Michael
E. Engh, SJ, who announced in June 2018 that he will be concluding his
presidency at the end of this academic year.
Fr. Kevin O'Brien, SJ
O’Brien, who currently serves as dean the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa
Clara University, will become president on July 1, 2019.
Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius ends with a simple observation — if we are
grateful for all that we have been given, then the most natural response is to
want to give back. ... I accept this honor as a way of giving back and serving,”
Fr. O’Brien said today after his presidency was announced.
2016, Fr. O’Brien has served as dean of the Jesuit School of Theology, where is
he is responsible for overseeing the academic, enrollment, fundraising and
student-life operations of the 85-year-old Catholic theologate, one of two
theology centers in the U.S. sponsored by the Jesuits.
previously spent eight years at Georgetown University, the last five as vice
president for mission and ministry. In that role, he oversaw the largest
inter-faith campus ministry in the country and cultivated the Catholic and
Jesuit mission of higher education and Ignatian spirituality among faculty,
staff, students, parents and alumni.
the next president of Santa Clara University, Fr. O’Brien brings a deep
knowledge of the requirements of higher-education leadership, having spent
significant time at both Georgetown and Santa Clara. He is a widely recognized
Jesuit leader nationally, having served on the boards of three Jesuit
universities — Seattle University, Marquette University and Boston College — and
on the faculty of the Jesuit Leadership Seminar, which helps form Jesuit
university leaders from around the country.
O’Brien is also a popular educator, having been chosen by Georgetown students
in 2016 to receive the Dorothy Brown Award for Excellence in Teaching.
From left: Paul
Gentzkow, Search Committee Co-Chair; Fr. William
Rewak, SJ, 26th president and Chancellor Emeritus; Fr. Michael
E. Engh, SJ, 28th president; Kitty
Murphy, Search Committee Member and Associate Professor; Fr. Kevin
O'Brien, SJ, 29th president; Lisa
Kloppenberg, Search Committee Member and Interim Provost; Fr. Scott
Santarosa, SJ, Jesuits West Provincial; and John
M. Sobrato, Chair, Board of Trustees.
are delighted to have chosen Fr. O’Brien from a rich field of Jesuit leaders to
guide Santa Clara University as it embarks on a new phase of growth,
educational excellence and accessibility, and innovation,” said Board of
Trustee Chair John M. Sobrato, who co-chaired the search committee.
am deeply humbled to be asked to take the helm of Santa Clara University and to
build upon all that Fr. Engh and his team have accomplished over the last
decade,” said Fr. O’Brien. “During my three years as dean of the Jesuit School
of Theology, I have gotten to know well the Santa Clara family: our outstanding
faculty, dedicated staff, and talented students. I look forward to working with
each to build on the strong foundation laid by the 28 presidents who preceed
me, to take Santa Clara University to its next level of national prominence.”
O’Brien comes to Santa Clara University at a pivotal time, as the university
recently went public with a $1 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign,
Innovating with a Mission: The Campaign for Santa Clara University. Santa Clara
is seeking in the campaign to expand scholarships and endowed professorships;
to create a centralized campus for interdisciplinary STEM education benefiting
students of all majors; to increase the diversity of its student body and
faculty; and to fortify its athletic program.
O’Brien was born in Montreal, Quebec, to an Irish-Catholic family of five,
which moved to Florida when he was four. He became a naturalized American
citizen at age 22, after graduating from Georgetown in 1988 with a degree in
then returned to his home state to attend law school at the University of
Florida, serving as an editor on the Florida Law Review. He practiced
corporate litigation for two years, after which he had a mini-epiphany that led
him to leave his law practice and begin teaching social studies at Cardinal
Newman High School in West Palm Beach, Florida.
years of discernment, Fr. O’Brien joined the Society of Jesus in 1996 and was
ordained to the priesthood in 2006. During the course of his 10-year formation
as a Jesuit, Fr. O’Brien earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham
University and a Master of Divinity and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from
the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, now part of Boston College. He taught
philosophy and ethics at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and business
law at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.
his pastoral work during his Jesuit formation, Fr. O’Brien served as a chaplain
for the Jesuit Refugee Service in immigration detention centers in Los Angeles
and worked serving migrants on the Arizona-Mexico border. He also spent time
caring for patients in a leprosy hospital in northeast India and ministering in
Bolivia, Mexico and Guatemala.
his ordination in 2006, he worked for two years as associate pastor at Holy
Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. He joined Georgetown in 2008.
2011, Fr. O’Brien wrote the book “The Ignatian Adventure, Experiencing the
Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life,” which has sold more than
40,000 copies and been translated into three languages.
O’Brien is also a regular writer on the intersection of theology and
contemporary society. He was a commentator about the Church on MSNBC from 2013
to 2015 and appeared in a video on the news site mic.com debunking
the notion of a “war on Christmas,” which was the most-viewed video on the site
At today’s announcement, Fr. O’Brien said: "The measure
that will matter most — at least for a Jesuit university — is the lives we have
impacted and the change we have affected, for the good of humanity — especially
those on the margins — and for the greater glory of God." [Source: Santa