September 22, 2021
John Garvey at his inauguration as president

President John Garvey, who led Catholic University through an extensive period of campus transformation that lifted up nearly every aspect of the University, will step down from his leadership role on June 30, 2022. Garvey, 72, was named the 15th University President in 2010.

In a letter to the University community, Garvey revealed that he began a conversation six months ago with the board of trustees about the possibility of stepping down at the end of the current academic year. He said the board recently accepted his request.

“I became President of The Catholic University of America in 2010 hoping I could contribute something to building up the institution. I did not foresee how much I would fall in love with it,” he wrote. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as President of this University.”

As the third lay president in the University’s 134-year history, Garvey maintained a firm commitment to its Catholic mission and identity. He delivered on the promise made at his inaugural address to promote a “serious Catholic intellectual culture” by hiring deans, faculty, and staff committed to the vision of Catholic higher education articulated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae and Veritatis Gaudium.

He prioritized the student experience, and worked to transform student life. One of his first projects was to install a basketball court near the dorms. He went on to make improvements to residence halls, the athletic program (including new fields, facilities, sports programs, and coaches), the counseling center, the Center for Cultural Engagement, and the Center for Academic and Career Success. Through these efforts retention increased from 79% to 88%. In his letter to the community he stated that Catholic University is “the best place in the world for a young person to attend college,” and that “we have the best students.”

Garvey led the most successful era of fundraising in University history, raising over $500 million in gifts and grants, and growing the University’s assets to nearly $1 billion. He has led efforts to advance Catholic University on the path to becoming a top-tier research institution. Last year the University raised $112 million in research grants. President Garvey was also instrumental in restructuring the university’s Board of Trustees from a primarily clergy-led organization to one that also features significant lay leadership. 

He led expansive revitalization projects outlined in a 15-year Master Plan approved by the District. These included the Monroe Street Market mixed-use development that benefited the University and the surrounding community. A new dining hall is currently under construction, and groundbreaking is not far off for a nursing and science building for the newly established Conway School of Nursing. He recently established new programs in Alexandria, Va., which serves adult learners, and in Tucson, Az., which brings affordable Catholic higher education to a region that is largely Latino.

Garvey also led the University through the nearly two-year crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have overcome the medical and financial challenges it presented through the intelligence, hard work, and charity of our people. I am thankful I had the opportunity to lead Catholic University through this period, because it gave me the chance to see close up what makes the school so special,” he wrote.

Victor P. Smith, chairman of the Board, wrote a letter to the University community in which he thanked President Garvey “for his leadership and for leading Catholic University forward as a truly Catholic global research university.”

He said a presidential search has been launched to hire a new president by July 1, 2022. Smith will lead the search committee. The University has hired the search firm Russell Reynolds Associates to lead the process. 

More information will be shared on the University website as it becomes available.


About John Garvey

John Garvey became the 15th president of The Catholic University of America on July 1, 2010.

He is a nationally acclaimed expert in constitutional law, religious liberty, and the first amendment. He has authored and co-authored numerous books. 

He received his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1970 and his J.D. from the Harvard Law School. After earning his law degree in 1974, Garvey clerked for Irving R. Kaufman, the chief judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, then joined the law firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco. He was a professor for the University of Kentucky College of Law from 1976-1994, assistant to the Solicitor General of the United States  from 1981-1984, professor at Notre Dame Law School, 1994-1999, and then dean of the Boston College School of Law until his appointment at Catholic University in 2010. 

He argued several prominent cases before the United States Supreme Court, including Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corporation and Heckler v. Campbell, which addressed disability regulation within the Social Security Administration. He was elected to the American Law Institute at the age of 33. In 2008 he served as President of the Association of American Law Scholars.

Garvey has emphasized that a Catholic approach to scholarship enriches every school and discipline. He has continued to be a prominent voice in the public square on a number of issues, including higher education, culture, law, Catholicism, and religious liberty. He writes a monthly column for Catholic News Service.

The Catholic University of America is the national university of the Catholic Church and the only higher education institution founded by the U.S. bishops. Established in 1887 as a papally chartered graduate and research center, the University comprises 12 schools and 31 research facilities and is home to 3,055 undergraduate and 2,311 graduate students.