At Notre Dame, the end of an era. President opts to step down

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—In the 162-year history of the University of Notre Dame, only 16 men have ever occupied the president’s office. It’s a lofty perch in the heady universe of academia.p.

But the Rev. Edward A. Malloy, the tall, white-haired president, forsook the trappings of his office and has made his home at Sorin Hall, living among 154 students in an old dormitory at what many consider to be the nation’s premier Catholic university.p.

‘’It keeps us in closer touch with what’s going on with the university, and that’s the way it should be," said Malloy, better known on campus as ’’Monk."p.

Malloy, 63, said he has no intention of moving out of the dorm after announcing last month that he will step down, ending a 17-year run that saw the school’s endowment grow nearly tenfold to about $3.5 billion, increased minority enrollment from 7.5 percent to 21 percent, extended the school’s international reach and established Notre Dame as a research and graduate center.p.

Malloy said he will stay on for a year to ease the transition and officially retire at the end of June, 2005. He will be replaced by the Rev. John I. Jenkins, an associate provost and philosophy professor. Jenkins was elected April 30 to a five-year term as Notre Dame’s 17th president by the school’s board of trustees.p.

’’There’s been three presidents at almost every major school since I’ve been president, so I’m kind of one of the graybeards on the block," Malloy said. ’’It’s the variety of the job that I’ve enjoyed the most—on campus, off campus, minor things, big things."p.

There were administrative challenges, such as shepherding the 11,000-student school through an economic downturn. But just as pressing, he said, was giving voice to tough political and theological debates.p.

‘’Wherever you look, we’ve had some degree of scandal or concern," he said, ticking off issues from priest abuse to political and corporate misdeeds and controversies over stem cell research and gay marriage. ‘’Our first obligation is to give people deep roots, a set of tools" to make sense of a confusing world, but, he adds, ’’We want to be a place of inquiry."p.

Malloy, who taught a literature and film seminar while president, said he will take a sabbatical—where, he’s not sure yet—then return to teach, write, and minister on a campus he has called home since joining Notre Dame’s faculty in 1974.p.

Malloy, who also sits on numerous boards, graduated from Notre Dame in 1963, then went on to get a master’s in English at the school four years later and a second master’s in theology in 1969, a year before he was ordained. In 1975, he earned a doctorate in Christian ethics from Vanderbilt University.p.

’’What he did for Notre Dame was to expand not only its academic program, especially into the areas of business and research, but he was able to make it a strong, strong model of what a good university should be," said Monsignor John Jordan, who runs the office of ministry and advancement for the National Catholic Educational Association.p.

The university added 500 faculty during Malloy’s term, and average SAT scores shot up from 1240 to 1360.p.

‘’He was not only the man who led the institution," Jordan said. ’’He also lived among the students. It reminds all of us that he’s one among them—he’s not better than, he’s not greater than, he’s one of."p.

Malloy is quick to credit his predecessor, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the ebullient and influential president who held the post for 35 years and lifted Notre Dame from a remote Catholic school with a good football program to a high-profile academic institution that ranked among the nation’s elite undergraduate programs.p.

‘’Malloy continued to develop what Hesburgh had taken up," said Monika Hellwig, executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. ’’Malloy has . . . continued developing the international connections."p.

Jenkins, 50, soft-spoken and deliberate, joined the faculty in 1990 and has been vice president and associate provost since 2000.p.

He, too, lives in a dorm, and sees his chief role as building on the foundation laid by Hesburgh and Malloy: promoting the school on the international stage, keeping a solid Catholic core, maintaining prestige at the undergraduate level and using the school’s vast resources to shore up its growing research and graduate programs.p.

‘’In research, we can’t be good at everything," he said. ’’We’re just not that big. But we can be the best at some things," whether it’s the humanities, philosophy and theology, or business.p.

And, Jenkins said, the school must continue to grow the endowment to make it less reliant on the stiff, $29,070-a-year tuition and diversify its staff and student body.p.

’’There’s no more diverse institution, arguably, in the world than the Catholic Church," he said. ’’You’ve got Africa, Asia, Latin America. Notre Dame should reflect the Catholic Church. It isn’t a bunch of white guys from Ireland."

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