Brennan O'Donnell

Professor/President Emeritus, English

Brennan O’Donnell, Ph.D., has served as the 19th president of Manhattan College since 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, director of the university-wide honors program. An active scholar, his teaching and research interests focus mainly on 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.

An active contributor to national and international conversations about the current state and future prospects of Catholic higher education, O’Donnell served from 1994–2000 as editor of the national magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education, and as a member of the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education from 1993–2000. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Lewis University and on the Board of Directors of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. He has also served as a board member at La Salle University, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities (cIcu), the Lilly Fellows Program, and 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, 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.

O’Donnell is married to Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, 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 in philosophy); and, Will (a graduate of Fordham and teacher in the New York City public schools).