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Alumna Patricia O’Connell Killen Named Academic Vice President

Posted on March 3, 2010 in: Academics, Alumni, Faculty & Staff, Faith, Feature Stories

Patricia O'Connell Killen will become Gonzaga's academic vice president effective July 1.

Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh announced the appointment of Patricia O’Connell Killen, Ph.D., provost and dean of graduate studies at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash., and a Gonzaga alumna, as the University’s next academic vice president, effective July 1.

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Killen to Gonzaga as our new chief academic officer,” President McCulloh said. “I am confident that Dr. Killen, who is an experienced administrator and a well-respected professor and scholar, will help lead our institution to even greater heights of academic excellence. Dr. Killen herself experienced the transformational gift of a Gonzaga University education, and as a result she thoroughly understands our mission and the importance Gonzaga places on effective teaching, advising, scholarship and citizenship.”

Killen earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Gonzaga in 1974, and was honored by Gonzaga with the Distinguished Alumni Merit Award in 2007. She earned both a master’s degree and doctorate in religious studies-American religious history from Stanford University. Before joining the Pacific Lutheran University faculty in 1989, Killen taught at the University of the South and then at Loyola University in Chicago.

“The invitation to become academic vice president at Gonzaga affords me the opportunity to contribute directly to the project of Jesuit higher education from which I have received so much,” she said. “I look forward to collaborating with President McCulloh, the faculty, students, staff and other administrators in moving Gonzaga toward realizing its best aspirations.”

One of three finalists who interviewed on campus this winter, Killen was the top nominee of the AVP Search Committee led by sociology Professor Jane Rinehart. Killen’s nomination came with the enthusiastic support of all constituencies, and her appointment has been approved by Gonzaga’s Board of Trustees. She will hold faculty rank as a tenured professor of religious studies.

PLU President Loren J. Anderson called Killen, “a truly remarkable scholar, teacher, colleague, leader and friend.” In a written statement to the PLU community this week, Anderson said the Tacoma, Wash.-based university will “miss the focus and passion that she brings to her work, and her unmatched commitment to creating and sustaining a thriving academic culture and collaborative scholarly environment that has truly transformed our university.”

Anderson noted that Killen’s skill as a teacher has brought national recognition to PLU, particularly her work with the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, where Killen led workshops and colloquies for faculty from across the United States and Canada.

Killen’s scholarly work is in the field of American religious history, and she is widely published in scholarly journals. She received an Arnold and Louis Graves Foundation Fellowship Award for Outstanding Humanities Teachers. In 2006 she received the American Academy of Religion Excellence in Teaching Award among numerous other honors and awards for outstanding teaching and academic citizenship.

While on sabbatical this year, Killen worked on two volumes. The first, a collection of essays on the future of Catholicism in the United States, is a sequel to her widely acclaimed and co-edited “Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The None Zone,” that explores religion in our region and its influence in public life. The second, a collaborative project with Roberta Stringham Brown, Ph.D., is a critical edition of letters of A.M.A. Blanchet, the Roman Catholic Bishop of today’s Washington State from 1846 through 1879. She is also the author of the award-winning book “Finding Our Voices: Women, Wisdom and Faith” and co-authored the award-winning book “The Art of Theological Reflection.”

With Paul Menzel she co-authored the $2 million dollar grant that created the Wild Hope Project and then co-directed the project. She directed the Center for Religion, Cultures, and Society in the Western United States. She has served Pacific Lutheran University as provost and dean of graduate studies since 2006.

Among her many professional affiliations, Killen has been active in the American Academy of Religion, serving as president of the Pacific Northwest Region in 2000 and on the board of the Academy from 1991-1995.

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