Board of Regents History

Georgetown University's Board of Regents has a distinguished history—one that spans 100 years of service, commitment and leadership.

The first Board of Regents was chaired by Rev. A.J. Donlon, S.J., president of the university, and consisted of the Board of Directors of the College and 12 lay alumni. The bylaws stated that "all persons who were students or professors in any department of Georgetown University prior to 1899 ... shall be entitled to cast one vote for one candidate for each vacancy on the Board of Regents." The board was a significant authority for the university and was configured to support its existing governing structure. Issues ranged from finance to real estate acquisition, athletics to curriculum.

From the 1920s through the 1950s, Georgetown survived the effects of two world wars and the nation's most severe economic crisis. The Board of Regents was disbanded during this time, yet the university archives provide ample evidence of the university's commitment to and need for external advice. Letters to the president and the directors indicate that advice was solicited from both alumni and friends of the university throughout this period.

The original idea of a prominent external body of advisors was refined in 1952 with the creation of the President's Council by then-President Hunter Guthrie, S.J., who drafted the blueprints during his last months in office. Under the presidency of Edward B. Bunn, S.J., the university entered the modern world of higher education. One of Bunn's first tasks was to recruit, according to The Washington Post, "six civic, professional and business leaders." Shortly thereafter, the council was expanded to include 12 members from distinct geographic regions to reflect the university's growing national population.

The President's Council went about its business of providing advice, enlarging the university's national profile and supporting its financial base as the 1950s and the 1960s changed the character of higher education. In 1967, possibly prompted by the effectiveness of the President's Council, the Board of Directors voted to include three lay members. These members were chosen from the President's Council, presumably because of their experience and expertise on the university. That same year, to formalize the status of the council as the major advisory body to both the president and the Board of Directors, the name was changed to the Board of Regents. President Gerard J. Campbell, S.J., in a letter to the Georgetown University community announced the membership of the "newly reconstituted" Board of Directors and Board of Regents.

Thenceforth, the regents evolved into a strong university-wide advisory board that chartered Georgetown through the challenges and changes of the 1970s. It was during this time that administrators and deans at almost every school discovered the potential and utility of advisory groups. Approximately 20 advisory bodies were created, patterned after the original advisory board concept.

The 1980s brought wealth to the university in the form of talent, energy and diversity from hundreds of volunteer leaders within Georgetown University's community. The Board of Regents was enlarged to 80 members (with 10 committees) and became the umbrella organization for the university's wide-ranging advisory board structure. This change became official in 1985, when the Board of Directors revised the bylaws to reflect this new role. It was at this juncture that the chair of the regents became an ex officio member of the Board of Directors.

Since 1985, under the successive leadership of Jim Shannon, Don Donahue, Dick Barry, Bill Frank, Hans Ziegler, Leslie Jacobson, Jim Higgins, Arthur Calcagnini, Bill Benedetto and Jane Hopkins Carey, the Board of Regents has grown to nearly 100 members and continues to provide Georgetown University with an invaluable source of support, service and spirit.