Board of Trustees accelerates presidential transition; Sanford to take office March 8th


On March 5, the University of Dallas’ Board of Trustees Chairman, Richard Husseini (BS, ‘88), announced in an email that Provost Jonathan J. Sanford will assume presidential office on March 8, almost 4 months earlier than was previously announced. 

“President Thomas S. Hibbs has chosen to return to Baylor University, where he served prior to UD, to return to a full-time faculty position in the philosophy department on July 1. Until then, Dr. Hibbs will continue to serve as a professor of philosophy at UD for the remainder of the academic year,” Husseini wrote in a memo to the University. 

“The Philosophy Department [at Baylor] has offered me an endowed chair, the chair formerly held by the great Catholic philosopher, John Haldane. I am deeply honored to be his successor,” Hibbs wrote in an email to The University News on March 7

Initially, Hibbs was to step down on June 30, and Sanford was to assume the presidency on July 1. However, the Board of Trustees chose to accelerate this process.  

“Although this accelerates the timeline that had been previously announced, everyone involved believes it is in the best interest of the university to effect the transition now,” Husseini wrote. 

Inaugurated on Nov. 1, 2019, Hibbs has spent approximately 16 months as UD’s president. 

“I am grateful for the time I have spent leading UD and proud of the work we have done in quite challenging times,” Hibbs wrote. “I am especially proud of the teamwork of faculty, staff, and students that led to a successful reopening, in both our Irving and our Rome campuses, in the midst of the pandemic in the fall of 2020, with a return to residential living and a remarkable 80% of our classes in-person.”

As reported in The University News on Jan. 20, the Board of Trustees had planned to name Hibbs president emeritus. Now with his imminent return to Baylor, Hibbs will not take that title.

Despite his early departure from UD, Hibbs wrote: “I look forward to supporting UD in whatever ways I can.”

“I hope it’s no slight against UD or Irving to say that Waco is the place that feels most like home,” Hibbs wrote.

Hibbs consulted fellow academic leaders who advised him to depart from UD so that Sanford may lead as president.

“The more I talked with academic leaders–friends of mine who lead other schools–the more I became convinced of what they all said to me. It’s just better for the former president of a school to move on and let the new president have the space and freedom to lead,” Hibbs wrote.

Hibbs reflected on his work with his successor.

“I have also been grateful to work with a talented and generous leadership team and especially with incoming president J.J. Sanford, under whose leadership UD will flourish well into the future,” Hibbs wrote.  

Sanford’s upcoming presidency is preceded by his work as provost. According to the Board’s memo, Sanford led the formation and development of UD’s strategic plan, which defends and maintains UD’s mission and academic excellence.

The Board has stated its intention to work with Sanford, who already has developed a leadership team to support him in his presidency. 

In an email to The University News on March 5, Sanford wrote, “I am blessed and truly honored by this appointment, and will endeavor to serve our beloved university faithfully and well in this new capacity for a great many years.”


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