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Santa Clara University names new President

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Sept. 18 -- Michael Engh, S.J., distinguished historian and current Dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, has been selected the 28th president of Santa Clara University. Fr. Engh will succeed Paul Locatelli, S.J., who announced in March that he would step down after nearly 20 years as president.

Fr. Locatelli continues as president of the University until December 31, 2008. For more information, visit

Engh, 58, was elected by Santa Clara University's Board of Trustees during a special meeting of the governing body on September 17. He will take office in January 2009.

In making the announcement, A.C. "Mike" Markkula, Chair of the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees, said, "Fr. Engh brings to Santa Clara an outstanding record as a scholar, teacher, historian, and administrator. He has made significant academic contributions in his career as a historian, and understands the potential of Jesuit institutions to advance learning and artistic expression, faculty scholarship, and social justice."

He added that Fr. Engh emerged from a field of candidates as the best person to lead Santa Clara to new frontiers in academic excellence. "He possesses a rare blend of vision, compassion, and a deep understanding of Jesuit higher education that will serve students, faculty, staff and the broader Silicon Valley community very well."

Robert Finocchio, Vice chair of the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees and chair of the presidential search committee said, "Fr. Engh is the ideal person to lead Santa Clara University into the next stage of its history. He will continue building Santa Clara's reputation for academic excellence and supporting our mission of developing leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion."

"From the first conversations in the search process, Santa Clara's themes , the pursuit of academic excellence, social justice, community-based learning, , have resonated with my core values," Engh said. "It is an honor and a great privilege to have been selected to join Santa Clara University as its next president."

A third-generation Angeleno, Engh graduated from what was then Loyola University of Los Angeles in 1972 and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1981. He completed his graduate studies in the history of the American West at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1987 and began teaching at LMU in 1988. He was also active in founding LMU's Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles and the university's Center for Ignatian Spirituality.

He is the author of Frontier Faiths: Church, Temple, and Synagogue in Los Angeles (1992) and has published 18 articles or chapters in books on the history of Los Angeles, the Catholic Church in the American West, and the history of LMU.

"Santa Clara University is fortunate to have Fr. Engh come on board as President," said Robert B. Lawton, S.J., President of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "He is a wonderful human being, and a great academic who works very well with both faculty and students, and he is a terrific fund raiser," he said. "He'll quickly become a Bronco!"

As dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts at LMU, a position he has held since June 2004, Engh has the responsibility for programs that enrolled approximately 1800 students. In addition, he oversees 151 tenured and tenure-track faculty, 85 to 95 part-time faculty each semester, and 26 staff members.

During his tenure as dean, he led a team in the implementation of a five-year strategic plan for the College: "Education That Transforms," initiated contacts with universities in China, encouraged foreign immersion trips for faculty, and founded two programs to promote inter-religious dialog.

Prior to his work as Dean, Engh served as rector of the Jesuit Community at LMU from 1994 to 2000, where he coordinated, planned, and completed the construction of a new residence for the Jesuits. In 1991, he cofounded the Los Angeles History Seminar at the Huntington Library, one of the largest urban history seminars in the country, and led the group until 2003.

As part of a sabbatical, Engh spent two years (2000-02) in East Los Angeles conducting research at the Huntington Library, volunteering at Los Angeles Central Juvenile Hall, and helping at the Dolores Mission parish.

Engh says his approach to higher education reflects a city-inspired understanding of the essential place that social justice holds in the mission of the contemporary Jesuit University. "The gritty realities of inner-city life jarred me as no book or lecture had," he said. He adds that academics in any locale have much to learn from the socio-economic realities that surround every campus.

"My vision uses the traditional Jesuit lens of academic rigor to focus on the pursuit of knowledge, justice, and faith. Excellence in scholarship and the arts presumes rigor, mental training that disciplines the mind in order to free the spirit in its quest for truth and beauty."

At Santa Clara, Engh said, his job will be to ask a lot of questions and to listen deeply to the campus community. As president, his priorities would center on drawing diverse and academically gifted students, attracting and retaining talented faculty, and fundraising.

The oldest of six children, he was born in Los Angeles, where his mother's family first settled in the 1880s. His father, Donald, is a retired captain in the Los Angeles city fire department and his mother, Marie Therese (Airey) Engh, is a homemaker. He graduated from St. Bernard High School, in Playa del Rey, Calif. in 1968.

A baseball enthusiast, Engh said the two words that best describe him are: Dodgers Fan! In his free time, he enjoys reading, regular exercise, and spending time with friends. He is also looking forward to getting to know and engage with the diversity, energy and entrepreneurial spirit that are the hallmarks of Silicon Valley.

Engh, who first visited Santa Clara in 1974 as a Jesuit novice, has great memories of his early visits to the Mission campus. Captivated by history as a child, he remembers being fascinated by the past, by historic sites, and original documents. His grandfather Edmund F. Airey, Sr., was a great storyteller, and Engh grew up hearing his accounts of California history and sharing his love of the past. "Engaging teachers in high school and college further inspired my love of studying history," he said.

Engh who has a reputation of being a challenging professor and a tough grader ? "if you want the best for your students, you have to ask their best from them" - also knew early on in his student life that he wanted to be a teacher. "My first experience as a teacher was teaching history to a class of high school students. I knew then I had found my true vocation."

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California's Silicon Valley, offers its 8,685 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master's and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master's universities, California's oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact: Deepa Arora - 408-554-5125;

Michael Engh, S.J.

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