Former Cardinal Newman teacher, now Jesuit priest, named president of Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University announced that Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., a theologian, Jesuit priest, and educator, will become the 29th president of Santa Clara University on July 1, 2019.

 After graduating from Georgetown in 1988 with a degree in government, O’Brien returned to his home state of Florida to attend law school at the University of Florida, serving as an editor on the Florida Law Review. He practiced corporate litigation for two years, after which he had a mini-epiphany—described in his book The Ignatian Adventure—that led him to leave his law practice and begin teaching social studies at Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach, Fla, where he once attended as a student.

Mr. John Daniell, the current social studies teacher at Cardinal Newman High School, reached out to Fr. O’Brien for a brief interview about how his time at Cardinal Newman shaped him into a leader of one of the world’s most prominent Catholic universities.

“My time as a student and teacher at Cardinal Newman was very formative. My Catholic education at St. Clare, Newman, and Georgetown instilled in me a faith that was grounded in community and a commitment to core values and the search for justice. This education taught me to always give back. At Newman, I met many wonderful people—as a student and as a teacher—who have been good friends and mentors over the years. As I was discerning my vocation to the Jesuits, Newman gave me a place to test my emerging desire to serve in a different way.

Having left my law practice, I taught social studies, religion, coached girls’ soccer, and helped to start the Emmaus retreat program. During my third and last year, I served as campus minister. I loved my time teaching at Newman and those three years brought my vocation to the priesthood alive. I will always be grateful for what the good people at Cardinal Newman have given me over the years and am delighted to reconnect with classmates and former students, who likewise have put their education in service to others.”

After years of discernment, O’Brien joined the Society of Jesus in 1996 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2006. Since 2016, O’Brien has served as dean of Santa Clara University’s Jesuit School of Theology, an international center of scholarly and ministerial formation, with a faculty and student body consisting of lay men and women, Jesuits, clergy, and members of other religious orders. There, he is responsible for overseeing the academic, enrollment, fundraising, and student-life operations of the 85-year-old Catholic theologate, one of two theology centers in the U.S. sponsored by the Jesuits.

To learn more about Fr. O’Brien and Santa Clara University, visit