Brennan O’Donnell, Ph.D., is the 19th president of Manhattan College, having assumed the responsibilities of the position July 1, 2009.
O’Donnell came to Manhattan after five years of service as the dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, Fordham University. Before coming to New York, O’Donnell spent 17 years at Loyola College in Maryland (now Loyola University Maryland), where he served as a professor of English and, from 1999-2004, as director of the university-wide honors program. An active scholar, his teaching and research interests focus mainly upon poetry, especially of the British Romantic period, and on religion and literature, particularly contemporary American Catholic writers. He has authored two books on the poetry of William Wordsworth and co-edited The Work of Andre Dubus, a collection of essays published as a double issue of Religion and the Arts. In addition, O’Donnell has published articles, essays and reviews in some of the leading journals in his field. In 2014 he won the prestigious Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award, which recognizes scholars whose work has “made a lasting contribution to the art and science of versification.” At Manhattan, he continues to hold a faculty appointment, as he did at Fordham and Loyola, as professor of English.
As the first president of the College not to be a member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, O’Donnell is treading new ground at Manhattan College. He has experience in such transitions, however, as he was also the first layperson to serve as dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill. His publications and lectures demonstrate a keen engagement in issues of faith and education, specifically Catholic higher education. From 1994–2000, he served as editor of the national magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, and he was a member of the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education from 1993–2000. In addition, he is currently on the board of trustees at La Salle University and was recently elected to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities Board of Directors. O’Donnell has served as a board member for the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (cIcu), the Lilly Fellows Program and for Collegium, a consortium of Catholic universities that strives to strengthen faculty understanding of and participation in the mission of Catholic higher education.
A native of Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley, Dr. O’Donnell earned his B.A. with highest distinction and honors in English at The Pennsylvania State University in 1981, where he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. He earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in English and American literature and language. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships, grants, awards and honors.
O’Donnell is married to Angela O’Donnell (formerly Alaimo), a poet and writer who teaches at Fordham, where she serves as associate director of the Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. The couple has three sons: Charles (a graduate of Saint John’s University, Minnesota, and a teacher in the St. Paul, Minnesota, public schools), Patrick (a 2009 graduate of Columbia University, currently pursuing graduate studies), and Will (a graduate of Fordham).