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Fr. Jenkins chosen for second five-year term

Madeline Buckley | Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Board of Trustees has elected University President Fr. John Jenkins to a second five-year term, Board Chairman Richard Notebaert announced Oct. 16.

“I am humbled that the Board has expressed its confidence by electing me to a second term,” Jenkins said in a press release. “With the support of our Trustees, I will continue pursuing the goals I cited at my inauguration four years ago — offering an unsurpassed undergraduate education, becoming even more pre-eminent as a research university and ensuring that our Catholic character informs all that we do.”

Jenkins was inaugurated as the University’s 17th president in September of 2005 after taking office in July of the same year. He had previously served as vice president and associate provost. University President Emeritus Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy held the position from 1987-2005.

“The vision and leadership that Father Jenkins has demonstrated in his first four years in office have been inspiring and innovative,” Notebaert said in the release. “Building upon the foundation set by his Holy Cross predecessors, he is making the aspirations of this University a reality.”

In his annual address to the faculty in September, Jenkins repeated his threefold goal of prioritizing undergraduate education, research and the University’s Catholic character while also noting that increasing student and faculty diversity and stabilizing the school’s finances are additional aims for the upcoming years.

Jenkins said in the address that the 2008-09 school year, his fourth year as University president, was the “most challenging and most rewarding” of his tenure so far, citing the challenges of the financial crisis and the controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s Commencement address at the May 2009 ceremony.

After the University announced in March the U.S. president would speak at Commencement and receive an honorary degree, Jenkins defended his decision when critics protested the invitation, stating Obama’s visit presented an opportunity for dialogue.

“We are not ignoring the critical issue of the protection of life. On the contrary, we invited him because we care so much about those issues, and we hope for this to be the basis of an engagement with him,” Jenkins told The Observer in an interview after the announcement. Jenkins gained national attention throughout the controversy.

Jenkins also confronted the issue of academic freedom in the context of a Catholic university during his tenure.

In April of 2006, he released a statement titled “Closing Statement on Academic Freedom and Catholic Character,” which allowed the performance of the Vagina Monologues to be held on campus, provided that an academic panel discussion follow the performance. The statement followed several months of debate over whether the controversial play should be performed at a Catholic university.

Among his other initiatives in office, Jenkins helped launch the Notre Dame Millennium Development Initiative in 2006, a project in which the University works with international organizations to contribute to development in Uganda.

That initiative was announced in the second annual Notre Dame Forum, which Jenkins began during his first year in office. The Forum, which is typically held each fall, will again take place this year, but in the spring semester.

In a resolution, the Board of Trustees said they have “respect and full confidence” in Jenkins and his continued role as president of the University.

“The Fellows and Trustees look forward to continuing our work with him in service to Our Lady’s University,” Notebaert said in the release.