#TBT: Portrait of a President, September 2005

Author: Caroline Ashworth, Meg Kelleher, Grace Sorenson

Jenkins poses for a photo in 2023."

In Oct. 2023, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. announced that he is retiring after serving as president of the university for 19 years. From the expansion of campus to the reopening of the university amidst a global pandemic, Notre Dame has experienced many important changes and initiatives under Jenkins’ direction.

News editor Dave Poell chronicled Jenkins' rise to the presidency in the Sep. 9, 2005 cover story, “Portrait of a President.” Detailing his humble beginnings as one of 11 children from Omaha, Nebraska, Poell highlighted Jenkins’ doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford, underscoring his passion for education. Several of Jenkins’ colleagues also praised his ability and interest in the academic sphere. Paul Weithman, then-chair of the department of philosophy, noted that if circumstances were different and Jenkins had not accepted the leadership role, he “would have been committed to a life of scholarship.” Jenkins remains highly interested in academia, as he will be returning to the role of professor upon stepping down from the presidency.

In the article, Jenkins shared his hopes for improving inclusivity at Notre Dame and introducing issues of diversity into the curriculum. Jenkins’ ultimate goal was to strengthen the university’s Catholic identity as a force for good. Since 2005, Jenkins has facilitated several changes to the university to achieve these aims, including the initiation of Walk the Walk Week and the deeper incorporation of the spirit of inclusion into the Moreau First-Year Experience.

Just before he steps down as president, Jenkins will serve as the principal speaker at the 179th University Commencement Ceremony. Board of Trustees chairman Jack Brennan said that Jenkins’ “leadership and exemplary service to the University make him a most fitting choice” to “recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2024 and our distinguished faculty.”

As we say thank you and goodbye to Jenkins, we look forward to a new period of Notre Dame history under the leadership of Rev. Robert A. Dowd, C.S.C.