Rev. John Jenkins to step down as Notre Dame's president in May
Notre Dame announced Friday that university president Rev. John Jenkins will step down at the end of the academic year.
Notre Dame's president since 2005, Jenkins helped lead the university through a recession and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic. During his tenure, Notre Dame was consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top research universities and recently was admitted to the Association of American Universities.
Jenkins also oversaw numerous construction projects on and around campus including Campus Crossroads and the building of Eddy Street Commons.
“Serving as President of Notre Dame for me, as a Holy Cross priest, has been both a privilege and a calling,” Jenkins wrote in a statement. “While I am proud of the accomplishments of past years, I am above all grateful for the trustees, benefactors, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends who made them possible. There is much to celebrate now, but I believe Notre Dame’s best years lie ahead.”
As news of Jeninkins’ decision to step down trickled throughout campus, members of the Notre Dame community shared their thoughts on his tenure.
Marcus Cole, the dean of the Notre Dame Law School, highlighted Jenkins’ leadership during COVID and credited him for keeping the university open and together during that time.
“The most obvious example was his courage in telling the world that Notre Dame was going to be in-person during the COVID pandemic,” Cole said. “We were practically the only university that stayed open, cared for our students and cared for our community.”
Bill Husic, a Notre Dame alumnus who is back in town for the football game against USC, said he admired Jenkins’ commitment to reaching across the aisle to start a dialogue. Notre Dame has invited a number of high profile speakers to campus over the course of Jenkins’ time at Notre Dame including multiple supreme court justices and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Some speakers were met with protests, as was U.S. President Barack Obama’s in 2009 when some conservatives opposed him being the commencement speaker due to his views on abortion.
“There’s not a lot of working together. People are extremists on the right and the left. They don’t work together anymore and he’s had to face some of those issues and how to keep everybody happy,” Husic said. “I think he did a good job of that.”
Current sophomore Kate Norman said she’s been a fan of Jenkins’ ability to build a community and feels most students appreciate what he’s done for the student body.
"He's consistently kept everyone together, especially through COVID. That leadership is so appreciated and has really kept the Notre Dame aesthetic together," Norman said.
Along with Jenkins’ announced retirement, Jack Brennan will also step down as chair of the university’s board of trustees in May. Current board member John Veihmeyer will replace Brennan.
Brennan called Jenkins' leadership visionary in a statement provided on Friday.
“Together with the remarkable leadership team he has assembled, [Jenkins] has devoted himself to advancing the University and its mission, fulfilling the promise he made when he was inaugurated — to work collaboratively to build a great Catholic university for the 21st century," Brennan wrote. "This is an extraordinarily exciting time for Notre Dame, and we are confident that the next leader will take the University to even greater heights of accomplishment.”
To succeed Jenkins, the board of trustees will select a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Notre Dame says that search is underway. Jenkins is Notre Dame's 17th president and began his fourth five-year term in June 2020.