President's Biography

Rev. John Jenkins

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., became the 17th president of the University of Notre Dame on July 1, 2005, and began a second five-year term in July 2010. He had previously served from 2000-04 as vice president and associate provost.

At Father Jenkins’ inauguration on September 23, 2005, he stated, “My presidency will be driven by a wholehearted commitment to uniting and integrating these two indispensable and wholly compatible strands of higher learning: academic excellence and religious faith.”

More specifically, Father Jenkins has articulated a vision of Notre Dame as the Catholic research university for our time – an institution that engages in scholarship of the first rank while maintaining its distinctive Catholic character and long-time excellence in undergraduate education.

During his first eight years in office, Notre Dame has made significant progress toward its research goal, including selection as the lead university partner in the Midwest Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery; the creation of Innovation Park, a research park located adjacent to the campus; the distribution of $80 million in internal funds for a wide array of major faculty research initiatives; the top recipient over the last decade of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the construction of Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering, a 142,000-square-foot facility housing a nanotechnology research center, the University’s new Energy Center, a semiconductor processing and device fabrication clean room, and an undergraduate interdisciplinary learning center; and the installation of the first accelerator funded by the National Science Foundation in nearly a quarter century, which will collide high-speed sub-atomic particles in ways that mimic the nuclear reaction processes in stars.

These investments in infrastructure, programs and equipment have brought positive results, attracting more than $100 million in outside research funding for two years in a row. Some highlights of Notre Dame research include: the definitive study of the means and motivation of human generosity; mapping of the DNA sequence of the mosquito species that transmit malaria, yellow fever and dengue; the authoritative computer model for hurricane storm surge that authorities use to determine water levels and design levee heights and alignments; studies of “business on the front line” efforts to repair communities recovering from civil war and ethnic violence; and trailblazing work on adult stem cells.

Father Jenkins’ commitment to the University’s historic excellence in undergraduate education was immediately evident when he convened the first Notre Dame Forum in conjunction with his inauguration in 2005. Created to give students the opportunity to hear international experts discuss important issues of the day, the forum has focused on topics such as religion and world conflict, the global health crisis, immigration reform and sustainable energy. His tenure also has seen the dedication of the Jordan Hall of Science, a 200,000-square-foot building dedicated to undergraduate science education; the opening of two new residence halls; and a significant enhancement to the Glynn Family Honors Program for undergraduates in the Colleges of Science and Arts and Letters. Also, Bloomberg Businessweek has ranked Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business as the top undergraduate business school in the country the last two years.

In appreciation for his service as president during his first four years in office and their four years at Notre Dame, the undergraduate students in the Class of 2009 honored Father Jenkins as the recipient of their Senior Class Fellow award.

Father Jenkins repeatedly has vowed to maintain Notre Dame’s identity as a Catholic university, perhaps most notably at the 2009 commencement ceremony when, in the face of criticism of his invitation to President Barack Obama to receive an honorary degree, he said: “The University of Notre Dame belongs to an academic tradition of nearly a thousand years – born of the Church’s teaching that human reason, tempered by faith, is a gift of God, a path to religious truth, and a means for seeking the common good in secular life. It is out of this duty to serve the common good that we seek to foster dialogue with all people of good will, regardless of faith, background or perspective. We will listen to all views, and always bear witness for what we believe. Insofar as we play this role, we can be what Pope John Paul II said a Catholic university is meant to be – ‘a primary and privileged place for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture.’”

Father Jenkins has continued his call for civil discourse in our nation – grounded in the Christian view of others as equally made in the image of God – as a way to find common ground rather than demonize those with a different opinion. In a speech at Emory University in 2011, he said: “If we choose to attack our opponents before we have taken the time to understand them, if we prefer denunciations to genuine dialogue, if we seek political victory rather than constructive compromise…we will not be able to find solutions to the problems before us.” The Commission on Presidential Debates, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that sponsors and produces all U.S. presidential and vice presidential debates, cited his leadership on this issue in electing him to its board of directors in 2011.

Many of the University’s new initiatives have been made possible by generous contributions to its “Spirit of Notre Dame” capital campaign, a $1.5 billion fund-raising effort publicly announced by Father Jenkins in May 2008. The campaign, which concluded in June 2011, surpassed its goal in the summer of 2009 and exceeded the $2 billion mark, a record for a university without a medical school.

Father Jenkins also has continued Notre Dame’s efforts to work collaboratively with the communities surrounding the University. Recent initiatives include the opening of Eddy Street Commons, a $200 million mix-used development adjacent to the south side of the campus; a voluntary 10-year contribution of $5.5 million to four local municipalities; and a partnership with the city of South Bend on Innovation Park.

A Notre Dame alumnus, Father Jenkins earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philosophy from the University in 1976 and 1978, respectively, and was ordained a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus in 1983. While earning bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in philosophy from Oxford University in 1987 and 1989, respectively, he also taught in Notre Dame’s London Undergraduate Program. He earned a master of divinity degree and licentiate in sacred theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in 1988.

A member of the Notre Dame philosophy faculty since 1990 and the recipient of a Lilly Teaching Fellowship in 1991-92, Father Jenkins served as director of the Old College program for Holy Cross seminarians from 1991 to 1993 and as religious superior of the Holy Cross priests and brothers at Notre Dame from 1997 to 2000. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles published in The Journal of Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy and Theology, and The Journal of Religious Ethics and of the book “Knowledge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas.”

Father Jenkins is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which is given to those showing outstanding qualities in their personal and professional lives, yet maintaining the richness of their particular heritage. He also holds honorary degrees from Benedictine College (2006), the University of San Francisco (2010) and Aquinas College (2011) and was the 2009 recipient of the American Irish Historical Society’s Gold Medal. In 2010, he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an association honoring leading “thinkers and doers” since the 18th century, and in 2011 he was appointed to the academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, which aims to bolster teaching and research in these disciplines. He also received a Champion of Diversity Award from Indiana Minority Business Magazine in 2011. He is a member of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Board of Directors and a past chair of the Big East Conference Presidents and Chancellors Committee.