The Catholic University of America

June 15, 2010

CUA’s New President Sees Opportunities for University

Noted Constitutional Law Expert Takes on Role as 15th CUA President

  John H. Garvey says Catholic University has a distinctive intellectual contribution to make to higher education.

John H. Garvey expressed optimism for the future of Catholic education and cited specific contributions that Catholic University can make in higher education during his first public appearance as CUA’s president.

Garvey, former dean of Boston College Law School, was announced today as CUA’s 15th president by Most Rev. Allen H. Vigneron, archbishop of Detroit and chairman of the Catholic University Board of Trustees.

“Catholic universities have a distinctive intellectual contribution to make in higher education,” Garvey said during a press conference at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. “They, and this university in particular, have something important to add to the richness of American higher education.” (To view video of the press conference, click here.)

Garvey’s appointment as CUA’s 15th president is effective July 1. He replaces Most Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., who led the university for the past 12 years and was named by Pope Benedict XVI as the next bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., when the current bishop retires.

Citing CUA’s School of Theology and Religious Studies and schools of philosophy and canon law, Garvey said: “The most important thing they offer is the invitation they give to students who come here and to faculty who do their work here to consider the range of human knowledge from the point of view of the faith that motivates and inspires this university — whether they are interested in art and biology or classics and literature or nursing. Our faith contributes something in addition to what you get at other American universities.”

While acknowledging that higher education faces challenges, Garvey said, “It’s an especially exciting time for Catholic higher education because the Catholic Church has made a conscious decision to expand and enliven its contribution to education.” As a result, the faith upon which Catholic colleges and universities were founded is adding to rather than subtracting from the education they provide, he said.

College is one step on a long path for young people today, and “Catholic University of America is well situated to play an important role,” he said, noting the university’s origin as a graduate institution.

Garvey also said the university must appeal to a larger audience, especially Hispanics, who make up one-third of American Catholics. As the national Catholic university, “We have a responsibility to all of the Catholics in parishes around the United States to extend the opportunities of our education.”

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, left, and Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., welcome John H. Garvey as CUA’s 15th president.

Archbishop Vigneron, chairman of the CUA Presidential Search Committee and a CUA alumnus, introduced Garvey as an accomplished jurist, scholar, teacher and proven leader in higher education. “He is a man of strong faith in Christ and a committed member of the Catholic Church.

“We are confident in our selection of the new president that he will continue to lead us forward on the basis of what Bishop O’Connell has accomplished,” said Archbishop Vigneron, who noted that four principles guided the work of the presidential search committee: mission, academic excellence, student life and supporting resources.

“The board is very dedicated to the advancement of the mission of this university, which is to make progress in the dialogue between faith and reason. … To that end, we expect the new president to advance us in academic excellence, to strengthen student life and to find the resources … we need for our ambitious goals."

The announcement caps a nine-month search that considered about 200 people for the position. Garvey was chosen on June 7 by CUA’s Board of Trustees. Because CUA is a pontifical university and the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States, Garvey’s appointment required Vatican approval, which came two days later, on June 9.

Garvey, past president of the Association of American Law Schools, is the third lay person to hold the position of CUA president. Clarence Walton, an academic, was president from 1969 to 1978, and Edmund Pellegrino, a medical doctor specializing in ethics, served from 1978 to 1982.

Prior to his appointment as Boston College Law School dean, Garvey served as a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School and a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law. He earned a J.D. (cum laude) from Harvard Law School.

“The trustees have a strong sense that we are stewards of a great (Catholic) heritage,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Throughout the (search) process, that’s been our focus. We are confident that President Garvey will advance that mission here.

“Let me put it his way,” the archbishop continued, “another synonym for cleric is church man. While Professor Garvey is not a church man, he is a man of the Church.”

For more information about Catholic University’s new president, or visit

MEDIA: To arrange an interview with President John H. Garvey, contact Victor Nakas or Mary McCarthy in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.

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