President's Retirement Message

Dear Saint Mary's Community: 

It seems there is no perfect moment for announcing one’s future retirement, but I believe the right time for me to do that has now come. I want to share with the Saint Mary’s community that in June 2021, after eight years as SMC President and at the completion of my second term, I will retire from my position as president.

This decision comes after deep spiritual reflection and many conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. The Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees, Board Chair Kevin Nagle, and Brother Visitor, Brother Donald Johanson, FSC, are aware of this decision and my timeline, and they are initiating a process for the planned transition to new leadership next year. I am confident this process will be a smooth one. More specific information will be shared with you very soon.

My experience at Saint Mary’s over the past eight years has been the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. To lead an institution of such superb academic quality, one grounded in a deeply realized Lasallian Catholic mission guided by the Christian Brothers, one dedicated to the bonds of relationship among all members of the College community—this has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life. What an honor and a privilege it is to serve this exceptional College.

What makes this the right time to transfer the reins of leadership is that Saint Mary’s today stands securely in a strong position with a promising future. We are fully prepared to move on to our next stage—academically, financially, culturally, and educationally. This is a result of the hard work, passion, talent, and commitment of our students, our faculty, our staff, our alumni, our Christian Brothers, our Board of Trustees, our donors, and the Moraga community. I have felt the dedication and support of these groups throughout my time as president. My heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation for your commitment to the enduring excellence of a Saint Mary’s education.

Together we have realized several remarkable achievements: 

We have enhanced the academic quality of our curriculum; attracted, cultivated, and retained our first-rate faculty; and increased our research and teaching productivity considerably. We can all take enormous pride in the fact that our national rankings verify these accomplishments.

We have met our budget goals for the past several years—despite nationwide competition for enrolling students in higher education.

We have successfully completed the Comprehensive Campaign: Defining the Future: The Campaign for the Future of Saint Mary’s and exceeded our goal of $125 million. The Campaign priorities have made it possible to strengthen our programs and infrastructure across campus.

We have made it clear that diversity and inclusion continue to be among the most fundamental values of a Saint Mary’s education. Our diversity is multifaceted, across race, economic class, gender, ethnicity, and religion.

We have assembled a senior leadership team at Saint Mary’s that will continue to take the College in a positive direction on all fronts. Our leadership team is gifted with clear vision and strong managerial expertise and merits our complete confidence.

We have instituted policies to help optimize the financial position of our dedicated SMC employees. This is part of our renewed commitment to shared governance among faculty, administration, and the Board of Trustees.

We have further strengthened our Athletics programs. Our SMC student-athletes have distinguished themselves on the courts and fields and in the classroom. In doing so, they have raised the profile of Saint Mary’s as an attractive institution on the local, national, and international landscapes. Just as important, they have symbolized the best in intercollegiate athletics.

That is where we are. But what must hold our attention now is the future of Saint Mary’s—and pursuing together its fullest possibilities.

At present, of course, the coronavirus pandemic challenge is all-consuming. It calls for courage on all levels—personally, professionally, and in our roles here at SMC. But we’ve never had a challenge we couldn’t meet, and we have the power to meet this one. We will draw on our creativity, strengths, and commitment to the well-being of one another to get through this time. I will be here to work with you on these issues throughout the coming academic year.

Remember that we are strong because we know the power of community. Together we will rise to the need with confidence, optimism, and grace.

The Saint Mary’s community will always be my home going forward. Be assured I will continue to provide service in whatever ways I can.

I want to offer my deepest gratitude to each of you in the Saint Mary’s community for making my time as president of Saint Mary’s a grace-filled blessing. Thank you! 

With warmest regards, 


James A. Donahue