USF President-elect Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., will start work Aug. 1.
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., has been named the next president of the
University of San Francisco, the 28th in its 159-year history. The USF Board of
Trustees voted unanimously in a special session April 8 to appoint Fr.
Fitzgerald, said Thomas E. Malloy ’61, board chair. Fr. Fitzgerald will take
office Aug. 1.
I received word I was selected as president, I was absolutely elated," he
Return to the Bay Area
This will be a homecoming for Fr. Fitzgerald, who grew up in
Los Gatos, Calif. His mother and two sisters live in the South Bay, and his
brother lives in the California's Central Valley. As a teenager, he visited the
USF campus many times on road trips from Los Gatos to the city.
"For a long time, I've had my eye on USF, as a school I
really like and respect," Fr. Fitzgerald said. In fact, USF was the site
of one of the most important moments in his life — St. Ignatius Church was
where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1992.
Fitzgerald has worked in higher education for more than 20 years and is
currently the senior vice president for academic affairs at Fairfield
University in Connecticut, where he oversees the recruitment and retention of
faculty, develops curriculum, and works with deans to direct academic programs.
Previously, he worked at Santa Clara University as associate dean and senior associate
dean for the College of Arts and Sciences. He has served on the boards of trustees
at Loyola University Chicago and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
national search for USF’s new president began in October 2013 when the USF
Board of Trustees appointed a Presidential Search Committee (PSC). It included
current and former trustees and was led by Chuck Smith, the board's vice chairman
and retired president and CEO of AT&T West. A second committee, the
Search Advisory Committee (SAC), advised the PSC, and its members included
faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Teresa Win '85, chaired the SAC, and she also
served as vice chair of the PSC. Isaacson Miller, a highly regarded national
search firm, helped guide the search.
"The Presidential Search Committee was united in
finding the very best leader for the university, and after discussions with
more than 300 contacts, it recommended Fr. Fitzgerald to the board," said Smith.
"He brings impressive experience in connecting with the business
community, in fundraising, and in strategic planning. He has a sound working
knowledge of the mechanics of higher education and the use of technology to
complement the transformative one-on-one interaction between faculty and
"I am deeply grateful to the hundreds of people from
USF who participated in the listening sessions and completed our online
survey," said Win. "This high level of involvement enabled the search
committee to define, very clearly, the qualifications we were looking for in
USF's new leader."
Fr. Fitzgerald thinks he already has a head start. "There
is strong leadership across the university, from the deans and vice presidents
to the board of trustees," he said. "There's also a real affection
for the university and a genuine dedication to its mission."
When asked if the first months of his presidency would be
characterized by "listening and learning," he answered, without
skipping a beat, "My entire presidency will be characterized by listening
and learning." Fr. Fitzgerald said he'll hold a number of structured
meetings, and lots of unstructured ones, to learn about the hopes, dreams, and
expectations of USF's students, faculty, and staff, and its alumni and
This is how he described his leadership style: "I have
developed a style of academic leadership that rests upon habits of deep
listening, inductive reasoning, data collection, analysis and sharing,
benchmarking, best practices, and collaborative decisions-making."
Fr. Fitzgerald also said he'll practice budgetary
restraint and fiscal discipline in order to invest in new degree programs and grow the endowment. "In the long
run, a larger endowment will moderate costs to students and their families and
afford USF the capacity to seize opportunities as they arise," he said.
The tech industry's growing presence in the city is a strong
opportunity for USF, Fr. Fitzgerald said, and he'll spend time and energy
engaging its leaders. "The City of San Francisco is becoming a vibrant
center for startups and venture capital. USF can be at the heart of this story,
helping to steer the direction of change in the city for good. USF can align
academic programs to educate the knowledge workers for these new industries. We
can provide continuing and executive education for the city's evolving
population. And USF can form research partnerships and joint ventures built on
collaborations between faculty and firms in the city."
A global perspective
"Fr. Fitzgerald's true global perspective and academic
rigor will certainly engage Bay Area technology leaders and
entrepreneurs," said Claudio M. Chiuchiarelli '79, board of trustees chair emeritus.
Fitzgerald has lived, taught, and studied overseas, helping him develop that
global perspective. He is fluent in German and French and is conversational in
Spanish. He earned a D.E.A. (diplôme des études approfondies) and a Docteur ès
Lettres (PhD) in the Sociology of Religion at the University of Paris — La
Sorbonne and an S.T.D. (Pontifical Doctorate) in ecclesiology from the Institut
Catholique de Paris. He
taught as a visiting lecturer in China during the summer of 1992 and in Kenya in 2004.
"My research and scholarship has slowed but not ended
since I took on full-time administrative work a decade ago," he said.
"I continue to work at the intersection of sociology and theology, the
disciplines of my two doctorates and remain fascinated by the ways in which
people of faith and religious commitment bring their personal belief into
fruitful dialogue with their professional engagement in the gritty reality of
One more thing to know about Fr. Fitzgerald: "I'm a
good cook," he said. "I never met a national cuisine I didn't
appreciate." What does he love most about cooking? "When the food
comes out, the conversation takes off. Sharing a meal is an amazing opportunity
to share life," he said. "It's not for nothing that Jesus' most
important conversations took place over meals."
This is the second time USF has offered Fr. Fitzgerald a
job: the first was in 1992, as a teacher in the Department of Theology and
Religious Studies. His Jesuit superior had other plans for him, however, and sent
him instead to Santa Clara University. His boss there was current USF President
Stephen A. Privett, S.J.
"I have known and respected and liked Steve for many,
many years," Fr. Fitzgerald said. "Of all his accomplishments, his
ability to animate the conversation around USF's mission so that it is deeply
shared and widely owned is his most lasting and most impressive accomplishment.
I don't know of another Jesuit university in the country that is more mission
focused, or where the mission is more deeply shared across the university, than
the University of San Francisco."
Privett has served as USF’s president since 2000, making him the third longest
serving president in university history. He will remain in office until Fr. Fitzgerald's
"We are deeply grateful to the Rev. Stephen A.
Privett, S.J. for his inspired, dynamic, and collaborative leadership these past
14 years," said Malloy. "I am pleased that Steve will spend the
summer helping to ensure a smooth transition in leadership. The board is
looking forward to welcoming Fr. Fitzgerald to USF in the fall."
For many years, the President-elect has taught at least one
course per year to keep in touch with students, and he hopes to continue that
at USF. "There is no more joyful place for me than being in the classroom.
Watching the light go on in the eyes of a student as he or she 'gets it;'
seeing a student develop an argument logically, rationally, and with
consistency and depth; that, finally, is what we are all about as a