Manhattan College has named Dr. Brennan O’Donnell as its 19th president, effective July 1, at which time Br. Thomas Scanlan, F.S.C., will step down from his position after nearly 22 years of leadership.
O’Donnell will become the first lay person to serve as president in the 156-year history of Manhattan College, a Lasallian Catholic institution founded and run by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. The Brothers’ history dates back to 17th century France and their founder, John Baptist de La Salle, designated by the Catholic Church as the Patron Saint of Teachers.
O’Donnell is currently dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, Fordham University’s oldest and largest school, a college of arts and sciences with more than 3,200 students and nearly 300 faculty. He brings to Riverdale the experience of running an academic unit close to the size of Manhattan College.
“I’m honored and humbled by the faith that the Manhattan community has placed in me to lead this great College in fulfilling its mission,” O’Donnell says. “There is enormous strength and potential here, and I look forward with excitement to continuing and forwarding Manhattan’s long tradition of applying Lasallian wisdom to contemporary challenges.”
“Dr. O’Donnell is blessed to be asked to serve a wonderful student body and to lead a great team of administrators, faculty and staff,” Scanlan says. “In turn, Manhattan College will be blessed by Dr. O’Donnell’s strong commitment to Catholic higher education and his promise to enhance the College’s Lasallian heritage.”
Prior to assuming his current role in 2004, O’Donnell spent nearly two decades at Loyola College of Maryland, where he was professor in the department of English. He also served as director of the honors program (1999-2004), where he oversaw a university-wide interdisciplinary humanities program that enrolls about 200 students under the instruction of more than 20 faculty members from seven departments. His career began as a teaching assistant in the department of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1983-1986).
O’Donnell has been a member of the board of Collegium, a national organization of Catholic colleges and universities that supports faculty seeking to deepen their understanding of the intellectual tradition informing their institutions, and is currently a member of the board of the Lilly Fellows Program, which seeks to strengthen the quality and shape the character of church-related institutions of higher learning for the 21st century.
He has experience in faculty recruitment and development, student recruitment and retention, advising, budget planning and administration, curriculum and program development and evaluation, accreditation, strategic planning, fundraising, advertising and public relations.
O’Donnell earned his B.A. in English at Penn State University (1981), and received an M.A. and Ph.D. in English and American literature and language from the University North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Passion of Meter: A Study of Wordsworth’s Metrical Art and Numerous Verse: A Guide to the Stanzas and Metrical Structures of Wordsworth’s Poetry, as well as numerous other journal articles and papers. In addition, he is the recipient of various awards and honors.
“Dr. O’Donnell is a highly respected educator and academic administrator,” says Thomas O’Malley, chairman of the board of trustees at Manhattan College. “His natural leadership talents coupled with a deep commitment to Catholic liberal education will positively impact the College’s programs in science, engineering and business, as well as in arts and science. These are among the many factors that led the search committee to unanimously recommend him to be the next leader of the College and for the board to elect him as the 19th president of Manhattan succeeding Brother Thomas.”
Scanlan, Manhattan College’s longest-tenured president, was inaugurated on October 29, 1987. Prior to his appointment, he was vice chancellor and chief executive officer of Bethlehem University, Palestine, a private, independent institution sponsored by the Vatican and directed by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
Under Scanlan’s leadership, Manhattan College has undergone a transformation that has it currently recognized as one of the premier Catholic institutions of higher education in the nation. During his time in office, the College has seen a 120-percent increase in applications and a 100-point increase in SAT scores while achieving accreditations by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.
Scanlan has raised more than $225 million in two capital campaigns, and the endowment increased tenfold. His leadership led to the construction of the 24-7 state-of-the-art Mary Alice and Thomas O’Malley Library featuring modern accommodations for study and research. Twin residence halls Horan and East Hill were built to accommodate 1,250 students. A new multilevel parking garage was completed in 2008.