Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, Named 29th President of Santa Clara University
19, 2019 — Theologian and educator Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, has
been named the 29th president of Santa Clara University. He succeeds Fr. Michael
E. Engh, SJ, who will conclude his
presidency at the end of this academic year.
Fr. Kevin O'Brien, SJ
O’Brien, who currently serves as dean of 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.
Fr. O’Brien has also 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.
A popular educator, he was chosen by Georgetown students
in 2016 to receive the Dorothy Brown Award for Excellence in Teaching.
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 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
He attended law school at the University of
Florida and then practiced
corporate litigation for two years, after which he had a mini-epiphany that led
him to leave law 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. 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.
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