Notre Dame appoints Peter Likins to provide independent review of Declan Sullivan investigation

Author: Dennis Brown

Notre Dame Blue Seal

As part of the ongoing internal investigation into the death of Declan Sullivan, the University of Notre Dame will turn over its findings and recommendations to Peter Likins, the president emeritus of the University of Arizona who has been engaged by Notre Dame to provide an independent review of the process.

A junior from Long Grove, Ill., Sullivan died Oct. 27 when the hydraulic scissor lift from which he was videotaping football practice fell.

“In selecting someone to review our investigation, I sought an individual experienced in higher education, with an impeccable reputation for integrity, intellect and independence,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “In Dr. Likins, we are fortunate to have just such a man. He brings numerous credentials to this assignment: as a member of the National Academy of Engineering; as a university administrator who served as provost at Columbia and president at Lehigh and Arizona; as a highly regarded member-president in the NCAA; and as a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

“Investigations and external reviews such as this take time, but I assure you that, when complete, we will issue a public report on the outcome, including information on the events of the afternoon of Oct. 27, any institutional ramifications, and recommendations for safety policies in the future.”

Likins served as the 18th president of the University of Arizona from 1997 to 2006. He previously was president of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., for 15 years and, before that, provost at Columbia University, where he had also served as a professor and dean. He also taught and conducted research on spacecraft dynamics and control for 12 years at the University of California, Los Angeles. At the dawn of the space age, he served for two years as a development engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology.

Likins earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Stanford University, a master’s degree in civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate in engineering mechanics at Stanford.

He was a member of the Knight Commission from 2004 until his retirement and served the NCAA as a founding member of the Presidents’ Commission and later as a member of the Executive Committee, also chairing a presidential task force on the future of intercollegiate athletics. A former student-athlete at Stanford, Likins is included in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as an “Outstanding American.”

As Arizona’s president, he led the successful “Campaign Arizona” capital campaign, which raised almost $1.2 billion, the most ever for the university. He also led the “Focused Excellence” initiative to identify and enhance the university’s strongest fields of study.

Upon his retirement, he received the Regents’ Medal from the Arizona Board of Regents, just the 11th person to be so honored.

Originally published by Dennis Brown at on November 05, 2010.