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Marking the Moment: Michael Engh, S.J., to be inaugurated as Santa Clara University's 28th President

Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2009

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 31, 2009 — In a ceremony full of tradition harkening back to the year of the University’s founding, 1851, Fr. Michael E. Engh will be inaugurated as the 28th president of Santa Clara University at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 24. Delegates from more than 90 universities around the country, civic officials and Silicon Valley executives will be on campus to mark the moment when Engh is formally installed as president.

Visit the inauguration Web site:

Unlike the U.S. presidents inauguration, which typically occurs on his first day in office, universities often wait until the president has been in office for several months before holding their ceremonies — giving the new president time to get a feel for the university and its many constituencies and to think more about the direction he or she would like to take the university.

For Engh, a distinguished historian and Jesuit priest, the inauguration ceremony will be an opportunity to reflect on Santa Clara’s history and affirm SCU’s commitment to academic excellence, social justice, and educating students of competence, conscience, and compassion.

During his first year at Santa Clara, Engh has said his priorities will be attracting diverse and academically gifted students, talented faculty, and fundraising. “Already I am excited about engaging the diversity, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit that are the hallmarks of Silicon Valley and Santa Clara University,” he added. 

“A presidential inauguration is a major moment and occasion in the life of a University,” said A.C. “Mike” Markkula, Chair, Santa Clara University Board of Trustees. “It is a time when we are able to look back with pride on our accomplishments and confirm our confidence in a future of great promise.”

The inauguration ceremony is rife with symbols and meaning. The ceremony will begin with a colorful and traditional academic procession, made up of Santa Clara University faculty, students, trustees, and visiting delegates, led by a mace-bearer. The ceremonial mace is one of the most ornate and historic symbols of a presidential inauguration. Used to symbolize the academic authority of the institution, it represents the need to protect and nurture the fragile search for knowledge. Its origins can be traced to medieval times, when clergy (who were forbidden under biblical injunction from using swords) carried club-like staffs into battle.

As SCU presidents before him, during the installation, Engh will be presented with a traditional symbol of the trust and authority being placed in him – the chain and the medallion. The moment when the chain and medallion are conferred is the investiture. Investiture means to invest the president formally with the authority of office, including the proper symbols and clothing.

Central to the inauguration, the chain is a necklace of metal with an elaborate medallion depicting the University seal, which features the words “Santa Clara University” and the year of its founding, 1851.The use of chains and medallions as ceremonial garb originated in medieval times, when they were known as livery collars, ornate and durable symbols of the authority of office. 

Fr. John P. McGarry, provincial of the Society of Jesus in California, will confirm Engh’s mission as president of the Jesuit institution.  The Jesuits have sponsored and staffed the University since 1851.

“Santa Clara University has played a distinguished role in the history of higher education in California,” McGarry said. “Today you write a creative and new chapter with your twenty-eighth president. Knowing of Father Engh’s deep concern for Catholic higher education, I am happy to entrust this mission to him,” he added.

Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, U.S. Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, will give the invocation.  Rabbi Greenebaum advised Engh on issues of Jewish-Catholic dialogue during Engh’s tenure as dean at Loyola Marymount University.

Salutations will be delivered by university and community representatives. The Santa Clara University Orchestra will perform the processional, recessional, and special music for the occasion under the direction of Emily Ray from SCU’s music department.  The Chamber Singers and Concert Choir will perform under the direction of Thomas Colohan of SCU’s music department. The ceremony will be followed by a community reception at the Malley Center.

An inaugural mass will be held the day before on Thursday April 23 at 4 p.m. in the Mission Church on campus.  Bishop Patrick McGrath will serve as the principal celebrant.  A chalice from the Mission-era and two chalices from Fr. Engh's family — a 100-year-old chalice from his mother's family and an Engh family chalice created for his ordination in 1981 — will be used during the Mass. 

Engh officially began his tenure as Santa Clara University president on January 5, 2009. His former appointment was dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts and professor of history at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. A third-generation California native, Engh is an historian specializing in the American West. He is the author of Frontier Faiths: Church, Temple, and Synagogue in Los Angeles (1992) and has published extensively on the Catholic Church’s role in settling California and on the history of Los Angeles.

The oldest of six children, he was born in Los Angeles, where his mother's family first settled in the 1880s. His father, Donald, is a retired captain in the Los Angeles city fire department, and his mother, Marie Therese (Airey) Engh, is a homemaker.

Engh graduated from what was then Loyola University of Los Angeles in 1972 and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1981. He completed his graduate studies in the history of the American West at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1987 and began teaching at Loyola Marymount University in 1988. He was also active in founding LMU’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles and the university’s Center for Ignatian Spirituality.

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About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 8,685 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

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