2001 Flame of Hope Award

Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J.

Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., became Georgetown University’s 47th president in 1989, 33 years after he graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown College. At the time of his election, he was a professor of systematic theology at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a visiting fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center on Georgetown’s campus, and a member of the University’s Board of Directors. A specialist in systematic theology, he has taught at Loyola College in Maryland, Woodstock College, and Union Theological Seminary, in addition to Weston and Georgetown, where he is a professor of theology. 

O’Donovan is a long-standing supporter of the programs and initiatives of the Department of Pediatrics and the Child Development Center. He has actively promoted the pediatric van, vigorously supported anti-violence programs, and supported the Child Development Center’s work with inner city Catholic schools to address behavioral and learning issues. Through his support of service learning among all Georgetown students, O’Donovan is helping to create the next generation of individuals interested in serving the community, especially children. Also recognizing the importance of excellent day care availability for families with young children, he established Hoya Kids, a developmentally-based day care center for Georgetown employees. Overall, he is a champion of community and children’s issues. 

In the past eleven years, Georgetown University has continued to flourish and grow as a world-class university with a vibrant Catholic and Jesuit identity. Georgetown has been consistently ranked among the top 25 universities in the nation. Its Law Center is consistently ranked in the top 15. The total number of faculty has grown by 27 percent since 1990. Sponsored research grants have tripled, and the University’s endowment has more than tripled. O’Donovan, who resides in the Jesuit community on Georgetown’s main campus, maintains an active involvement in student life, regularly visiting residence halls, giving lectures, and attending student events. 

The recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a Danforth Fellowship, O’Donovan has been awarded several grants from the Association of Theological Schools for his research and scholarship. For his service and leadership in education, he has received numerous honors, including Iona Prep’s Man of the Year Award in 1990, an honorary degree from Loyola College in Maryland in 1991 and Sogang University in Seoul in 1993, the Tree of Life Award of the Jewish National Fund in 1997, and the Knight Commander’s Cross (Badge and Star) of the Order of the Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1998.