Notre Dame Board Elects Father Robert Dowd as New University President

The president-elect, a 1987 Notre Dame graduate, began working in the university’s campus ministry in 1994 after taking his final vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Notre Dame President-elect Father Robert Dowd succeeds Father John Jenkins, who is stepping down after 19 years.
Notre Dame President-elect Father Robert Dowd succeeds Father John Jenkins, who is stepping down after 19 years. (photo: Matt Cashore, University of Notre Dame / via CNA)

The board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame elected as the university’s new president Father Robert Dowd, a Congregation of Holy Cross priest and associate professor of political science who serves as a current vice president.

Father Dowd, who is also an associate provost for interdisciplinary initiatives and a religious superior of the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame, will assume his new leadership role at the conclusion of the 2023-2024 academic year. He will replace the current president, Father John Jenkins, who is stepping down after 19 years.

“I am deeply humbled and honored by the board’s decision,” Father Dowd said in a statement on Monday, Dec. 4, after the election.

“We can all be grateful for Father Jenkins’ selfless and courageous leadership for almost two decades,” Father Dowd continued. “Working together with others, his efforts have positioned the university extremely well in every way. We will build on those efforts. Informed by our Catholic mission, we will work together so that Notre Dame is an ever-greater engine of insight, innovation, and impact, addressing society’s greatest challenges and helping young people to realize their potential for good.”

The incoming president, a 1987 Notre Dame graduate, began working in the university’s campus ministry in 1994 after taking his final vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross, according to a university news release. He earned a master of arts degree in African studies from UCLA in 1998 and received a doctorate in political science in 2003. Since 2004, he has been a member of the political science faculty at Notre Dame with a specialization in comparative politics, focusing on researching how Christian and Islamic communities affect support for democratic institutions.

“We are thrilled that Father Dowd will be Notre Dame’s next leader,” Jack Brennan, the chair of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “His character and intellect, along with his broad academic and administrative experience and his deep commitment to Notre Dame, make him an ideal person to lead the university into the future.”

Father Dowd also founded the university’s Ford Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. According to the university news release, the program establishes research partnerships in the Global South and is informed by Catholic social teaching.

Current Notre Dame president Father Jenkins congratulated Father Dowd after the board elected him as the next president.

“I thank and congratulate our Board of Trustees on selecting Father Dowd as Notre Dame’s next president,” Father Jenkins said in a statement. “An accomplished scholar, a dedicated teacher and an experienced administrator, Father Bob [Dowd] is also a faithful and generous priest. He will lead the university to being even more powerfully a force for good in the world.”

Father Dowd will serve as Notre Dame’s 18th president. The university was founded in 1842 by a Congregation of Holy Cross priest. Every president since its founding has been a Congregation of Holy Cross priest.

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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