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James Donahue, former president of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), is the 29th president of Saint Mary’s College of California. Donahue began his term on July 1, 2013. Find out more about the first layperson to lead SMC.

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Press Release: James A. Donahue Named 29th President of Saint Mary’s College of California

James Donahue, Ph.D., president of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU), has been named as the 29th president of Saint Mary’s College of California. Donahue will begin his term on July 1, 2013.

Donahue, a committed and engaged Roman Catholic, will become the first layperson to serve as president in the 150-year history of Saint Mary’s. The College, which is celebrating its sesquicentennial year, is guided by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the Catholic Church’s oldest order devoted exclusively to teaching. The Brothers’ history and educational mission dates back to 17th century France and their founder, John Baptist de La Salle, is the patron saint of teachers. James A. Donahue

"I am excited to be able to appoint Dr. James Donahue to be president of Saint Mary's College of California. The College has existed for almost half of our orders' history and is a significant ministry of our Western United States province. It is with complete trust and confidence that I entrust the College to James Donahue's capable hands," said Brother Donald Johanson, Provincial of San Francisco Province of the Order of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

Donahue was selected after the College conducted an extensive international search, which was guided by a 17-member search committee made up of trustees, faculty, staff and alumni. "His exceptional qualities as an outstanding leader in higher education, academic scholarship, proven track record in financial management and fundraising, and commitment to Catholic higher education made James Donahue’s selection our unambiguous choice to be the College’s first lay president," said Russell Harrison, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees.

An accomplished academic and administrative leader, President-designate Donahue brings more than 20 years of executive leadership experience at leading U.S. institutions to his role at Saint Mary’s. Since 2000 he has been president of the GTU, a consortium of nine independent theological schools and Affiliate Centers, located in Berkeley, Calif. where he recently presided over the milestone 50th Anniversary of the GTU.

His accomplishments at GTU have included facilitating the ecumenical relationships of the GTU member schools while increasing and strengthening the interreligious and academic programs. He oversaw a successful capital campaign, which increased financial support for students and established the Center for Islamic Studies. The campaign also further established the GTU's renowned Flora Lamson Hewlett Library as one of the finest theological libraries in the world.

"Saint Mary’s College holds a distinctive place in the landscape of higher education today. I have a profound respect for so many attributes of the College, and of the Lasallian approach to education — the commitment to the highest quality of education, the values, the careful student-centered nurturing and support, and the religious and spiritual formation. I am grateful to the generations of Christian Brothers who have provided inspired presidential leadership for Saint Mary’s, and I am deeply honored to be appointed as the College’s next president," said Donahue. Prior to his presidency at the GTU, Donahue served 15 years at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as professor of theology and ethics, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, where oversaw the full range of student support services, including residence life, community service and shared supervision with the University President for Division I Athletics. He has also held faculty and administrative positions at Boston College and Santa Clara University.

Donahue has been committed to the public role of ethics and theology throughout his career. He has served as an ethics consultant to various organizations, including the Levi Strauss Corporation, the Department of Defense and the Catholic Health Association. Donahue's primary research areas and teaching interests include professional ethics, religion in public life, and the issues of organizational and professional ethics. In addition to producing a multitude of articles, papers, presentations and speeches, he is the co-author of Ethics Across the Curriculum: A Practice-Based Approach, and the co-editor of Religion, Ethics and the Common Good. He is also completing the manuscript for his third book, Organizational Character: Studies in the Ethics of Institutions.

In his role as president at the GTU, Donahue had the opportunity to work closely with faculty and administrators at Saint Mary’s, including the Bishop John S. Cummins Institute on Catholic Thought, Culture and Action, and as an advisory board member of the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism.

Donahue holds a B.A. degree from the College of the Holy Cross. He earned his Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a doctorate in religious and social ethics from the Graduate Theological Union.

Donahue’s nonprofessional interests range from jazz to political analysis to college basketball and professional baseball. He and his spouse, Jane Purinton, have two sons.