Richard Plumb Named 30th President of Saint Mary’s College of California

January 12, 2021

Dear Members of the Saint Mary’s College Community,

The Board of Trustees and the Christian Brothers are delighted to announce Richard Plumb’s appointment as the 30th president of Saint Mary’s College of California. Plumb will begin his term on July 1, 2021. 

This is certainly a critical time in our College’s history. We are confident that the extensive process that involved input from a wide range of constituents and stakeholders in our campus community allowed us to choose the best leader for Saint Mary’s College and our future. After a thorough national search, Plumb was selected because of his broad experience in strategic planning, curriculum development, financial management, fundraising, capital planning, and other critical skills necessary to leverage Saint Mary’s College’s distinguished history and write the next chapter for this remarkable institution. Plumb is a highly respected administrator, esteemed faculty member, and student-oriented leader. Given his strengths, he was our clear choice.

During his well-established 30-year career, Plumb has proven to be a higher education thought leader who inspires innovation and collaboration across diverse leadership teams and departments. He has a consultative leadership style and brings an analytical and creative process to problem solving and decision making. He is known for building relationships and is committed to shared governance. He is deeply dedicated to understanding Catholic intellectual tradition and educating the whole person. Plumb has reimagined education and led many successful initiatives helping first-generation and underrepresented students, including launching: the Dougherty Family College; Morrison Family College of Health; the Center for Student Achievement, which brought together the strengths of Academic and Student Affairs to improve graduation and retention rates; and forming STELAR, which laid the foundation for an unprecedented shift to online teaching and remote working with the outbreak of COVID-19. Plumb’s wide-ranging experience, financial and business acumen, and demonstrated fundraising success make him uniquely qualified to be Saint Mary’s next president. 

Plumb is a first-generation college graduate and holds a BS, MS, and PhD in electrical engineering from Syracuse University. His teaching and research interests range from applied electromagnetics to ground-penetrating radars, and he has authored over 50 peer-reviewed journal and conference articles.

Plumb began his academic career at the University of Kansas and then served in leadership positions at Binghamton University and Loyola Marymount University, and has served in his current role at the University of St. Thomas since 2014. The Search Committee members were impressed with his ability to view every aspect of the collegiate environment. Through the interview process, Plumb shared his insightful and well-informed assessment of the issues facing contemporary institutions of higher education today. We believe that he has the experience, leadership skills, and personal talents to lead the College to even greater levels of distinction and achievement of its Lasallian mission in the decade ahead.

We wish to express our deep appreciation to the Presidential Search Committee for its tremendous hard work and commitment to the selection process. We want to acknowledge and offer special thanks to President James Donahue for his significant contributions to Saint Mary’s over the past eight years. We are most grateful for President Donahue’s leadership amid a global pandemic and the most challenging economic conditions in over seven decades. It is in no small measure due to President Donahue’s labors and commitment and the Christian Brothers’ dedicated work that we can attract a president of Richard Plumb’s caliber. 

We feel confident that under Plumb’s leadership, we will forge ahead resiliently, continuing our Lasallian, Catholic mission; responding to the evolving academic needs of our talented students; and leading Saint Mary’s to become an international leader in Catholic liberal arts education.

Kevin Nagle

Chairperson of the Board of Trustees


Brother Donald Johanson, FSC


District of San Francisco New Orleans