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March 2022

Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D

Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D

Santa Clara University Names Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D, as President

Sullivan to become the first layperson and first woman to lead the nationally ranked university.

SANTA CLARA, Calif., March 1, 2022–Santa Clara University today announced that Julie H. Sullivan, Ph.D., current president of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, a top 20 national, Catholic university, has been named the 30th president of Santa Clara University. Dr. Sullivan will become the first layperson and first woman to serve as President of the 171-year Jesuit, Catholic institution. Unanimously chosen by the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees following a nationwide search, Dr. Sullivan will assume the role on July 1, 2022.

“This is a historic moment for Santa Clara University as we welcome Dr. Sullivan as our next president,” said Larry Sonsini, chair of the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees. “In Dr. Sullivan, we have found a proven leader and faithful servant ideally suited to lead Santa Clara University in our pursuit of a more humane, a more just, and a more sustainable world. With extensive higher education leadership experience spanning more than three decades, Dr. Sullivan brings strong academic and financial credentials to Santa Clara University. Moreover, she is a person of demonstrated faith who has dedicated much of her career to service rooted in justice and care for the whole person.”

As the next president of Santa Clara University, Dr. Sullivan will be charged with continuing the institution’s deeply grounded Jesuit, Catholic traditions while successfully navigating the increasing complexity of leading a nationally ranked higher education institution. As president of the University of St. Thomas, where she has served for close to nine years, Dr. Sullivan is highly regarded for her role in the culmination of the University of St. Thomas’ transformation from a small liberal arts college to a comprehensive urban university. During her tenure, the University of St. Thomas campus experienced a physical transformation with new facilities and renovations, established the Morrison Family College of Health and the new School of Nursing, launched the Dougherty Family College, a new two-year pathway with progression toward a bachelor’s degree for historically underrepresented students, raised more than $100 million in new scholarships, and completed the university’s historic transition from Division-III to D-I athletics, among many other milestones.

“I am deeply honored to have been selected as the next president of Santa Clara University, a true national leader in higher education,” said Sullivan. “Throughout my career I have been witness to the transformation that happens when you develop not only knowledgeable, but faithful, compassionate citizens of the world. At Santa Clara University, I have found a home rich in history and primed for the future, with its robust social consciousness distinctively driving tomorrow’s innovations. I’m looking forward to getting to know the Bronco family–students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni alike–and to engaging with full heart, mind, and spirit in the work ahead.”

Intensive and Thorough Process

Today’s announcement follows a national search that included 149 nominations and 58 applications from individuals representing a broad range of backgrounds, institutions, and fields. Including both Jesuit and lay candidates, the diverse applicant pool created a new opportunity for Santa Clara University to recruit highly experienced candidates with strong leadership credentials and deep operational, financial, and academic acumen.

“We welcome Dr. Sullivan to Santa Clara University with tremendous excitement and anticipation,” said Matthew Carnes, S.J., vice chair of the Santa Clara Board of Trustees and chair of the presidential search committee. “This is an extraordinary time for a leader of Dr. Sullivan’s qualifications to join our community, and both the search committee and board could see her creativity and tremendous potential to strengthen the interconnectedness of our Jesuit mission with the world around us. Her thoughtful and engaging leadership style, insightful decision making, proven business skills, and ability to create a culture of mutual trust, respect, and inclusion will be instrumental in driving Santa Clara University forward. Not only is Dr. Sullivan a tremendous leader and smart administrator, she is also a person of integrity who is deeply committed to the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching.”

In June 2021, the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees updated the University’s bylaws to remove the requirement that its President must be a Jesuit priest. The search committee comprised 13 individuals representing faculty, staff, alumni, the board of trustees, and the Jesuit community. Through the extensive process, the search committee sought the input of thousands of stakeholders including students, faculty, and staff, to inform the credentials needed in the University’s next president. To learn more about the search process, please visit

Accomplished Leader with an Ignatian Heart

With the appointment of the first layperson and first woman president, Santa Clara University is breaking ground on a new era. But for Dr. Sullivan, this is an honor and responsibility she has upheld before, serving as the first layperson and first woman president of the University of St. Thomas for almost nine years. Prior to joining the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Sullivan was executive vice president and provost of the University of San Diego, a private Catholic university. An internationally recognized and award-winning scholar and educator in accounting, finance, and taxation, Dr. Sullivan has extensive business and financial expertise with nearly 20 years of public company board service and 15 years of private company board service spanning several industries. As one of the foremost, nationally recognized leaders in Catholic Higher Education, she was recently elected to serve as the Board Chair of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities for the 2022-2024 period.

Among the priorities highlighted during the search process was a need for the next president of Santa Clara University to define a compelling and distinctive vision for its future grounded in Jesuit and Catholic mission and values. Dr. Sullivan has spent the better part of the past 17 years in service to Catholic higher education, with experience and drive that is aligned with the purpose, identity, and mission of Santa Clara University. She is a leader within the Ashoka Changemaker movement, which empowers young people to be agents of change in their communities and has been a champion for dismantling racism and building belonging, promoting environmental sustainability, and creating opportunity and economic inclusion through education, especially among first generation and students of color.

A Warm Welcome

Dr. Sullivan was unanimously recommended by the search committee, and unanimously approved by the Santa Clara University Board Trustees, both of which are served by members of the Jesuit community. In celebration of this historic moment, Sean Carroll, S.J., provincial of the Society of Jesus West, commented: “In the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit Community seeks to find God in all things and in all humanity. For centuries, our lay colleagues have played a critical role in our mission and our faith, carrying forward our commitment to be people for and with others. Throughout her career, Dr. Sullivan has led in service to others, living our Catholic teachings in both word and deed. As our world around us continues to change, we embrace and welcome Dr. Sullivan to this most critical leadership role and offer her and her family our prayers and support for their journey ahead.”

Dr. Sullivan is married to Robert (Bob) Sullivan. Together they have five children and nine grandchildren. A native of Florida, Dr. Sullivan has a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a master’s degree in taxation, and a Ph.D. in business from the University of Florida. To learn more about Dr. Sullivan, please visit

About Santa Clara University
Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education. For more information see

Media Contact
Deepa Arora | SCU Media Communications | | 408-554-5125


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