The Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, has served as Villanova University’s 32nd president since June 1, 2006. Under his leadership, the University has charted a course of significant transformation that includes intiating and embarking on two ambitious, 10-year strategic plans, launching the University’s largest comprehensive fundraising campaign, initiating a vibrant physical campus renovation, and dramatically expanding student opportunities.
Bolstered by this vision, the University has introduced new initiatives, become more nationally recognized for its academic prowess and broken University admission records. Father Donohue has also worked together with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents to strengthen the Villanova community and renew its commitment to the institution’s Augustinian, Catholic educational mission.
Under Father Donohue’s leadership, Villanova has launched two, 10-year strategic plans. The first—“Igniting the Heart. Inspiring the Mind. Illuminating the Spirit.”—was designed to build upon the University’s successes and to guide the University through 2020. Core to the plan were Villanova's distinctive attributes of academic excellence, strong community, service to others, personal attention, and a platform for success. The Strategic Plan identified academic and programmatic priorities and a Villanova Campus Master Plan that guided the transformation of the University's physical plant to meet current and future needs. These strategic imperatives provided clear direction and were designed to further enhance Villanova’s reputation as a premier national Catholic university.
In September 2019, Father Donohue launched “Rooted. Restless.”—Villanova University’s Strategic Plan: 2020–2030. This 10-year Strategic Plan will continue to propel the University forward to a new level of success. It will guide Villanova forward into our next era of greatness, building upon our strengths and enhancing the Villanova experience for the entire community, including faculty, students, staff, alumni, parents and friends.
Father Donohue also has spearheaded the University’s environmental sustainability efforts, highlighted by his signing of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which pledges that the University will work to achieve climate neutrality. The University’s formal Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2010, outlines goals to practice the principles of environmental sustainability and provide learning opportunities for community members to be environmentally responsible.
In January 2018, Father Donohue established the Villanova Sustainability Leadership Council to develop an actionable and measurable plan to guide the University’s sustainability efforts through 2030. This work is also a part of the University’s new Strategic Plan, serving as a foundational element that underpins the 10-year plan.
Transforming the Villanova campus
One of Father Donohue’s first Presidential initiatives was commissioning a 30-year Campus Master Plan to assure that capital improvements are made with purpose and strategic intent.
As a result, today’s Villanova campus is undergoing a vibrant transformation. In addition to existing facility upgrades, several new state-of-the art buildings were constructed including the Davis Center, Driscoll Hall, the School of Law, the Talley Athletic Center, the Finneran Pavilion and The Commons. The Campus Landscape Initiative, completed in August 2019, has enhanced both the student and visitor experience. Also, in process is the a new Performing Arts Center, scheduled to open in Spring 2020.
A Commitment to Community
Throughout this transformative period in Villanova’s history, Father Donohue is committed to assuring that the University’s distinctive identity as an Augustinian Catholic institution is maintained. A champion of the role of service learning at Villanova, Father Donohue instituted an annual St. Thomas of Villanova Day of Service as a way for the University community to propel its Augustinian ideals into action. Each September, nearly 5,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni take part in projects throughout Greater Philadelphia. This is just one of the many service learning opportunities at the University, which boasts more than 250,000 hours of service in the local, national and international community.
Father Donohue is steadfastly dedicated to providing a distinctive academic experience to students across all colleges and disciplines by forging student-faculty partnership that connect teaching, research and extracurricular initiatives; identifying new and distinctive pedagogical approaching to teaching and learning; and developing Centers around distinctive institutional competencies. Under his leadership, the University has increased its commitment both to interdisciplinary learning and the creation of new Centers of Excellence.
During his tenure, attracting and retaining world-class teacher-scholars has been a priority. Since 2006, the number of full-time faculty hired, faculty citations in the media, faculty publications and papers have all significantly increased. Under his leadership, the University has also increased its commitment to interdisciplinary learning including the creation of new Centers of Excellence, as well as interdisciplinary institutes such as the Institute for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship and the Ann Welsh McNulty Institute for Women’s Leadership.
During President Donohue’s tenure, Villanova has created a new model as a doctoral-granting institution that produces a select number of PhDs, has research in niche areas and offers a wide variety of master’s degrees, while remaining focused on its undergraduates. Villanova faculty and students are involved in innovative research, much of which is funded by federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as major foundations. In February 2016, Villanova was classified as a Doctoral University: Moderate Research Activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University currently offers doctoral programs in Engineering, Nursing and Philosophy. A new doctorate in Theology program was launched in fall 2016.
Father Donohue’s leadership and his commitment to teaching has extended beyond the individual classroom. The University’s first new college in more than 50 years was created with the addition of the College of Professional Studies in 2014. He has made numerous key academic appointments, including naming the University’s first Provost, and several new Deans including those in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Business, College of Nursing, School of Law and the College of Professional Studies. In addition, he created the new positions of Vice President for Mission and Ministry, Vice President of Technology and Chief Diversity Officer, all a senior-level positions that serve on his Cabinet.
The University national reputation for academic excellence continues to grow. Villanova has been ranked among the top 50 national universities by U.S. News & World Report and is one of the top 4 Catholic universities in the country. Villanova has also been recognized as a Hidden Ivy, a school that is not a traditionally Ivy League school but is very similar due to a strong foundation in the liberal arts and sciences. The University’s colleges continue to be recognized among the best in the country, including a #1 ranking of the Villanova School of Business in 2016 by Bloomberg Businessweek.
The University is now consistently listed among the nation’s top producers of Fulbright Students, and Villanovans continue to be recipients of prestigious competitive scholarships and awards such as the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship. Villanova also has extraordinarily strong student outcomes, with 97 percent successful placement in jobs or graduate school within six months of graduation for the last several years (the six-year graduation rate has also moved from 87% to 91%).
An Accomplished Scholar
Born in Bronx, NY, and raised in Royal Oak, Michigan, Father Donohue earned a BA, with a concentration in theatre and communication arts, from Villanova University in 1975 and was ordained an Augustinian priest in 1979. He holds an MA in theatre from the Catholic University of America, a MDiv from the Washington Theological Union, and a PhD in theatre from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While pursuing his doctorate, Father Donohue taught theatre at the University of Illinois, where he received honors for outstanding teaching. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline honor society.
Father Donohue is a tenured full professor at Villanova who served as chair of the University’s department of theatre from 1992 to 2006. He annually directed musical theatre productions on campus, earning six Barrymore Award nominations and one Barrymore Award for Outstanding Direction of a Musical from the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia.