Loyola Marymount University inaugurates first non-Jesuit president

Loyola Marymount University
Loyola Marymount University Patrick Furlong/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)

The region’s top Catholic leaders and Los Angeles city officials will be in L.A.’s Westchester neighborhood Tuesday to inaugurate Loyola Marymount University’s new president, David Burcham.

The region’s top Catholic leaders and Los Angeles city officials will be in L.A.’s Westchester neighborhood Tuesday to inaugurate Loyola Marymount University’s new president, David Burcham.

For the first time in its 100-year history, the Catholic university’s president will not be a man of the cloth.

"I’m a Presbyterian," says David Burcham. "My late father was a Presbyterian pastor, raised as a preacher’s kid."

Burcham says his father would have approved of his son heading the state’s top Jesuit university – just as Catholic leaders maintained open minds in their selection of Burcham.

"The Jesuits and the women religious are very willing and interested in successfully working with lay partners in advancing the mission of the university."

That mission is to graduate students with a strong foundation in morals and social consciousness. Loyola Marymount University enrolls 9,000 students in undergraduate liberal arts degrees, its law school and its graduate school of education.

"About 43 percent of our students are of color. Almost 80 percent of our students are on some sort of financial aid. We boast the ninth highest graduation rate in the country of all institutions for combined African-American and Latino students."

Burcham says his immediate goals are to rebuild Loyola Marymount’s endowment, hit hard by the recession – and to shepherd a 20-year master plan for the university that includes construction of a new life sciences building.

Burcham graduated from the university’s law school and became its dean 11 years ago. As president of the university he says he’ll continue to advance Loyola Marymount’s Catholic-grounded liberal arts education.

"The balance is between promoting and making sure we’re on the right track with academic excellence as well as educating the whole person, making sure that we pay attention to the other dimensions of human existence at well – such as the spiritual dimension and the social dimension."

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