John I. Jenkins bigraphy, stories - President of the University of Notre Dame

John I. Jenkins : biography

December 17, 1953 -

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., (born December 17, 1953) is president of the University of Notre Dame. He was elected by the Notre Dame Board of Trustees on April 30, 2004, and became the University’s 17th president on July 1, 2005 after previously serving as vice president and associate provost.

A Notre Dame alumnus, 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.

Jenkins has been a member of the Notre Dame philosophy faculty since 1990; he received a Lilly Teaching Fellowship in 1991-1992. He 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.

Jenkins is a member of the Board of Directors for the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Honors and awards

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 Jenkins as the recipient of their Senior Class Fellow award.

Jenkins is a recent 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. Father Jenkins also holds an honorary degree from Benedictine College (2006) 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.

Commitment and vision

At 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, Jenkins has articulated a vision for the University that focuses on its being a pre-eminent research institution while maintaining its distinctive Catholic character and long-time excellence in undergraduate education.

During his first four 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 tech park located adjacent to the campus; the distribution of $40 million in internal funds for five major faculty research initiatives (with another $40 million designated for five more projects); designation of the University’s Environmental Research Center in Wisconsin as a National Ecological Observatory Network by the National Science Foundation; and the construction of Stinson-Remick Hall of Engineering, a facility housing a nanotechnology research center, the University’s new , a semiconductor processing and device fabrication clean room, and an undergraduate interdisciplinary learning center.

Jenkins has taken action to reinforce his verbal commitment to the University’s Catholic identity, including the appointment of the Rev. Robert Sullivan as an associate vice president who assists Notre Dame’s colleges, schools, institutes and centers with their academic programs and initiatives that advance the University’s Catholic mission and character. Jenkins has led Notre Dame delegations during his presidency to the Vatican to meet with Church officials, including a brief visit with Pope Benedict XVI; to France to celebrate the beatification of Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, the University’s founding religious community; and to Jerusalem to mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the University’s Ecumenical Institute.

Although Jenkins has repeatedly vowed to maintain Notre Dame’s identity as a Catholic university, he has not been immune to criticism. More notably, his invitation to President Barack Obama to attend Notre Dame's 2009 commencement ceremony and to receive an honorary degree was heavily criticized by some Catholics, including most American bishops, who opposed the invitation because Obama's stance on abortion differs from the official stance of the Catholic Church. He has also been criticized for other decisions such as allowing performances of The Vagina Monologues and showings of gay films on campus. Despite Catholic teaching on the subject, Jenkins' has declined to provide affordable health insurance for student spouses and children, with the result that high percentages of both are uninsured.

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