Manhattan College President O’Donnell Announces Transition to New Role

Brother Daniel Gardner, FSC to serve as interim president as board seeks successor.

Portrait photo of Brennan O'DonnellIn collaboration with Manhattan College's board of trustees, president Brennan O'Donnell, Ph.D. announced that he will begin a long-planned sabbatical in July 2022 ahead of transitioning to the role of president emeritus and professor at the College. 

Brother Daniel Gardner, FSC — who currently serves in Academic Affairs in the Center for Graduate School and Fellowship Advisement — will serve as interim president during the search for O’Donnell’s successor. 

President O’Donnell, Manhattan College’s 19th president in the College’s 169-year history, joined the private, Catholic liberal arts college in 2009 and guided it through a critical period of transition and growth as well as the challenges of the COVID-19 environment. 

“I am proud of my years here and all that our community has accomplished during my 13-year tenure.  I have loved my time leading this great institution, but I am also excited to return to the work of teaching, scholarship, and service that first attracted me to higher education,” O’Donnell said.

William Dooley, the College’s chair of the board of trustees, said O’Donnell initially approached board representatives a year ago to explore his options to complete his current term in June 2022 prior to a sabbatical ahead of transitioning to the faculty. The board chair and the president agreed to postpone the decision while addressing anticipated challenges of the approaching school year.

“We appreciate Dr. O’Donnell accommodating our request that he delay his decision and continue to serve fully invested as President as we navigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, completed the college’s once-a-decade Middle States self-report process and identified an ideal standout candidate to serve as Interim President ahead of launching a national search for a permanent successor,” Dooley said. 

“This was not an easy decision, but after much reflection and prayer, I knew that the time was right,” said O’Donnell. “The future is bright for Manhattan College, and I am confident that the College will be in good hands with Brother Daniel guiding the ship while the search for a new president moves forward.”

“We celebrate Brennan’s many achievements during his 13-year tenure. In that time, Manhattan has consistently ranked high in academic-quality surveys such as US News and the Princeton Review, while distinguishing itself especially as a top college for return on investment and for supporting military veterans. He has spearheaded the building and opening of both the Raymond W. Kelly ’63 Student Commons in 2014 and the Patricia and Cornelius J. Higgins ‘62 Engineering and Science Center in 2021,” Dooley said.

“On his watch the College developed many new academic and student-support programs, including the reestablishment of the MBA program in the O’Malley School of Business, the Arches first-year living-and-learning community, and the Career Pathways program, which integrates academic support, advising, and career development programs. He provided leadership for the “Invest in the Vision” Capital Campaign, which has surpassed its $165 million goal years ahead of schedule. During his time as president, the College’s endowment grew from $40.4 million in 2009 to $148.2 million in 2021,” Dooley said.

In announcing the appointment of Gardner as interim president, Dooley pointed to his commitment to the Christian Brothers’ tradition of carrying out Saint John Baptist de La Salle's mission of uplifting lives through education and his dedication to living out the Lasallian core principles and values as primary factors influencing Brother Dan’s decision to step up in this interim period.

“We are deeply grateful that we have two leaders as committed to the Manhattan College community as Dr. O’Donnell and Brother Dan Gardner. Their dedication to the college, its staff, students, and faculty cannot be overstated,” Dooley said.

By Pete McHugh