The University of St. Thomas (Minn.) today elected Dr. Julie H. Sullivan, 55, executive vice president and provost of the University of San Diego, as the first woman and the first lay person to serve as president.
A 13-member search committee of trustees, faculty and staff members, chaired by businessman John M. Morrison, recommended her to the board.
The St. Thomas board changed its bylaws two years ago to allow a Catholic lay person to serve as president.
“The first order of business will be to acknowledge that, yes, a lay Catholic woman is your leader,” she said, “and I also want to assure the entire community that we will not deviate in our commitment to the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic values that have been a St. Thomas hallmark."
Sullivan cited similarities between St. Thomas and San Diego and the emphasis placed by both institutions on practicing the principles of Catholic social teaching.
“It’s in San Diego’s DNA because of what we do – and it’s in your DNA, too,” she said. “When I was reading your faculty bios, every one of them included something about what they do in service to the community. Students also have a real commitment to being out in the world, to helping to solve problems, and in valuing the dignity of every human being."
Of her time at the University of San Diego, one achievement of which she is particularly proud is the 2011 designation of San Diego as a "Changemaker Campus" by Ashoka, an Arlington, Va.-based organization that supports social entrepreneurship around the world.
Sullivan says that she believes St. Thomas, too, can become a “changemaker” campus.
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