Santa Clara University today announced that Kevin O’Brien, S.J., a theologian, Jesuit priest, and educator, will become the 29th president of Santa Clara University on July 1, 2019.

O’Brien, 52, succeeds Michael Engh, S.J., who announced in June 2018 that he will be concluding his presidency at the end of this academic year after 10 transformative years.

Since 2016, O’Brien has served as dean of Santa Clara University’s Jesuit School of Theology, an international center of scholarly and ministerial formation, with a faculty and student body consisting of lay men and women, Jesuits, clergy, and members of other religious orders. There, 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.

He 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 and cultivated the Catholic and Jesuit mission of higher education and Ignatian spirituality among faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni. While at Georgetown, he also served on the President’s Cabinet.

As the next President of Santa Clara University, O’Brien brings a deep knowledge of the requirements of higher- education leadership, having spent significant time at both Georgetown and Santa Clara managing diverse operational and academic teams; working to ensure alignment between mission and the day-to-day realities of university management; collaborating with board members, external partners and donors; and working with faculty and staff to champion academic excellence. Moreover, he is a widely recognized Jesuit leader nationally, having 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.

In 2011, O’Brien wrote a book that has sold more than 40,000 copies and been translated into three languages, The Ignatian Adventure, Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life

O’Brien also is 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, debunking the notion of a “war on Christmas.” That video was the most-viewed video on the site in 2017, with more than 10 million views. He has written articles and participated in panels advocating for authentic and lasting reform of the Catholic Church amid the recent sexual abuse scandals. In 2018 he wrote a widely read opinion article on, lamenting clericalism in the Catholic Church and its role in enabling the scandals. He noted that he took hope in the knowledge that, in good times and bad, “the church is a people on a journey to make God’s dream for the world a reality.”

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