For the Common Good

Santa Clara University inaugurates its 30th President, Julie Sullivan, the first layperson and woman to head the Jesuit, Catholic University.

For the Common Good
Santa Clara University's 30th President Julie Sullivan speaks at her inauguration. / Image by Jim Gensheimer

It began, as it always has, with ceremonial pomp: Students ready at their instruments, faculty, staff, and luminary alumni in full academic regalia processing to their chairs. Ninety-five days after Santa Clara University’s 30th president started work on campus, President Julie Sullivan was inaugurated in the Leavey Center on Oct. 7, 2022.

The speakers welcoming Sullivan included former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Arizona governor, and president of the University of California system Janet Napolitano ’79, SCU Alumni Association President Scot Asher ’87, Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of San Jose, and many more.

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ’60, J.D. ’63 noted Sullivan is the first layperson and woman to head the Mission campus. “Join me in welcoming Santa Clara University to the 21st century,” he said with a laugh, adding that the University has been through many changes over the years.

But “I think we should also be very proud of what has not changed,” Panetta continued. “The mission, the vision, and values of Jesuit education remain very much the same—to educate the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—to prepare students to create a more just, humane, and sustainable world.”

After accepting her mission to lead the University from the provincial of the Jesuits West Province, Sean Carroll S.J., M.Div. ’99, Sullivan spoke. “Today isn’t about me, regardless of how many times you’ve heard my name,” she said.

“A university exists not merely to create and impart knowledge,” Sullivan said, “but also to help students make responsible and ethical decisions, decisions that advance the common good.”

In that vision and in keeping with the University’s Jesuit mission, Sullivan pledged to continue the campus’ tradition of academic rigor and renew its dedication to sustainability and diversity. Its mission also calls it to “cultivate, nourish, and sustain our University as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive” place of learning and community.

“I see a future for Santa Clara where we are more inclusive and welcoming and where we continue to increase and enhance our racial, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity to better reflect the world in which we live,” said Sullivan, who, as the first in her family to attend college, has made it a career-long priority to expand access to higher education.

It’s work Sullivan won’t be doing alone. As Panetta noted, “she’s a Bronco now”—and Broncos work together to improve the world.

It’s something she’s already partnering with students on. When SCU Associated Student Government President Kevin Ham ’23 first met Sullivan, he told the audience that, like most educators, she gave him an assignment. The reading, Ham said, calls on colleges to teach their students to “become active builders in creating the institutions needed to ensure a more just and inclusive society.”

Broncos building for the common good.

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