Earlier this month, University President Peter Kilpatrick and his wife, Nancy, officially made Nugent Hall their new home, and now they are preparing to welcome the students back to campus. For the past several weeks, President Kilpatrick has been busy meeting his new team and colleagues, visiting with individual members of the Board of Trustees, traveling to meet community members around the country, and setting forth his vision for his tenure. As he continues to learn about his new Cardinal family, he sat down for an interview to share some personal details and his vision for Catholic University with our community.
"As an adult convert to Catholicism, I am a deeply committed Catholic who believes that the Church is Christ's Body (it is really His Church, as He says in Matthew Chapter 16). So the University is very special and important to me."
— President Peter Kilpatrick
What are you most excited about as you begin your tenure at Catholic University?
It is always exciting to begin something new and challenging. I believe that The Catholic University of America is the most important Catholic university in America for obvious reasons, and I am deeply and totally committed to the concepts and ideas inherent in Catholic higher education. I think my entire career as a faculty member and academic administrator has prepared me well to serve Catholic University and contribute to its success. So, I am excited by all these things.
What does Catholic University mean to you?
The Catholic University of America is the only pontifical university in America. As such, it is the Holy Father’s and the bishops’ University. As an adult convert to Catholicism, I am a deeply committed Catholic who believes that the Church is Christ’s Body (it is really His Church, as He says in Matthew Chapter 16). So the University is very special and important to me. But the University means more to me than that: as one of the most beautiful university campuses in the remarkable city of Washington, D.C., Catholic University has the potential to be one of the most influential universities in the country and the world.
"The world needs more leaders formed and prepared by Catholic University in order to become a better and more human place, and I am excited to work with our Board of Trustees and other volunteer leaders, faculty, staff, and current students to expand our reach and influence."
What is it like taking on this leadership role at a point where the most ambitious campaign in University history is nearing a successful completion?
First, I’d like to thank and congratulate President John Garvey and the Board of Trustees for their initiative and vision in mounting Light the Way: The Campaign for Catholic University, which has fueled dramatic growth in our student scholarship offerings, academic and student programs, endowment, and facilities. Together, they surpassed the Campaign’s original goal and have raised $455 million toward the revised goal of $500 million, which is outstanding. Our vice president for advancement, Scott Rembold, and his team have done a spectacular job these past seven years in leading Catholic University to the largest campaign success in our history. We are immensely grateful to Scott and his team and believe this is just the beginning. I look forward to working closely with him and with our Board of Trustees to think carefully about the future and the heights to which we can take our University. I believe our board and our community are completely behind this.
"My goal is to meet every staff and faculty member in my first semester, and to meet as many students as I can in my first year through town halls, social events, group meetings, departmental and school meetings, dinners and meals, and other venues."
Tell us a little about your vision for the University moving forward.
I believe our value proposition as a University in these very challenging times of radical change in higher education is unique and critically important. The world needs more leaders formed and prepared by Catholic University in order to become a better and more human place, and I am excited to work with our Board of Trustees and other volunteer leaders, faculty, staff, and current students to expand our reach and influence.
The University has struggled for some time with our enrollment and student revenue. We need to fix that. I have worked closely with many leaders on campus and with a strategic growth consultant to begin to chart a new strategy and plan to dramatically grow our student enrollments and revenue. We owe it to our community, our alumni, and our legacy to do this. This will require our entire University to get behind our vision for the future.
Part of that future is determining our main aims for educating our students. I have worked closely with a number of persons and stakeholders to identify three main goals: (1) to help our students discern who they are as human persons, their purpose in life, and their vocations; (2) to help our students fully integrate their faith with their reason; and (3) to contextualize our education so that students are not only learning skills and a discipline, but are doing this within the larger context of the integration of the disciplines and their understanding of societal needs. Helping our prospective students understand fully what Catholic University has to offer them — and how that is different from any other university in America — is an important goal for ensuring that we can be successful and achieve our very ambitious enrollment goals.
How are you planning to engage with students and alumni?
I am busily meeting students, faculty, and staff as I write this. My goal is to meet every staff and faculty member in my first semester, and to meet as many students as I can in my first year through town halls, social events, group meetings, departmental and school meetings, dinners and meals, and other venues. I also am meeting individually with all of our trustees in my first 120 days, and I look forward to meeting alumni and parents, both here in the D.C. area and around the country. We have scheduled alumni and parent gatherings through December in Spring Lake, N.J., Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, D.C., just for starters. I welcome the opportunity to meet with our community in whatever ways are helpful to them.
"...I love to spend time with my four adult children, their spouses, and my grandchildren. We still have a home in Raleigh, N.C., the area where we raised our family, and we enjoy gathering there or at one of my children’s homes."
Who inspires you most in your life?
I would have to say that Jesus Christ is the most inspirational person in my life. I have come to know Him in Word and Sacrament, and through prayer. My life would be meaningless without Him. I am a huge fan of Our Lady and have a deep devotion to her. My dad, who was a real hero in World War II, has always been someone I admire tremendously. And my wife, Nancy, is one of the most remarkable servant leaders I have ever met, and I admire and love her deeply. In a professional sense, I have learned a great deal from my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Eric Kaler, who is the current president of Case Western Reserve University, and formerly the president of the University of Minnesota system. I was very inspired by the way he handled some very difficult challenges with his athletic teams during his time at Minnesota. I have also learned a tremendous amount from my dear academic mentor, Dr. Ruben Carbonell, who guided me when I was a young professor at NC State University. Ruben, who is also the godfather of my youngest son, Charlie, taught me the importance of an all-out commitment to excellence and hard work.
Although you’re new to the District, what is your favorite thing to do in D.C. so far? What are you looking forward to exploring?
The District is a wonderful “foodie” town. I love to cook and I love to eat, so Nancy and I have enjoyed learning about the restaurants in the District and have already been to several outstanding ones. As I said, I love to cook, and some of my favorite dishes to cook include paella, bouillabaisse, and shrimp paesano. I have been visiting Washington for nearly 40 years, so I am already reasonably familiar with a number of the sites, like the Capitol, the Smithsonian, and some of the other monuments and museums. I’m looking forward to Catholic University night at Nationals Park on September 16!
"I believe that The Catholic University of America is the most important Catholic university in America for obvious reasons, and I am deeply and totally committed to the concepts and ideas inherent in Catholic higher education."
Do you have any hobbies and interests outside of campus?
First, I love to spend time with my four adult children, their spouses, and my grandchildren. We still have a home in Raleigh, N.C., the area where we raised our family, and we enjoy gathering there or at one of my children’s homes. My oldest son lives in both Colorado and Vermont, while my oldest daughter and my youngest son and daughter all live in the Chicago area.
I enjoy working out and have had a physical trainer for nearly three years. I was on my college golf team at Occidental College and still love to play. But I probably spend most of my time outside of work reading. I recently read “She is Our Response,” a beautiful little book by Fr. Denis Lemieux about modernism, relativism, and Our Blessed Mother. I am also a student of leadership books and recently enjoyed reading Pat Lencioni’s book “The Advantage,” which I also assigned my leadership team to read. One of the most influential and important books of the last many years is a tour de force by Dr. Carl Trueman called “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self,” which I recently read, and that has influenced my thinking quite a bit.
Published on: Monday, August 22, 2022
Campaign Theme: Faculty Excellence
Tags: President Peter Kilpatrick