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Loyola University Maryland names its first layperson president

Terrence Sawyer

Loyola University Maryland has named longtime administrator Terrence Sawyer its 25th president, the first time the school has been led by anyone other than an ordained Jesuit priest.  

Sawyer, who is currently the university’s senior vice president, will begin his term as Loyola’s 25th president on Jan. 1, 2022. He was selected through a national search process following the retirement of Brian Linnane, the university’s previous president, who led Loyola for 16 years. 

“When I started here 23 years ago, I don’t think I could’ve imagined that someday I would become president,” Sawyer said. “I was really blessed with opportunities to lead the university in different ways, so that brings me here, today, humbled and honored and ready to serve.” 

As senior vice president, Sawyer leads the university’s division of advancement, as well as alumni relations, career services and marketing and communications. But his first role at the university was as a special assistant to the president for government and community relations, where he grew the university’s relationships with the surrounding Baltimore area. He was involved in the development of the York Road Initiative, a program that works to improve the lives of those living in the York Road corridor surrounding Loyola’s campus. 

Going into his new role, Sawyer will continue to prioritize the relationship between Loyola and Baltimore, spending time in his first month as president speaking with members of the community to get a sense of what Loyola can do to be a strong neighborhood partner. 

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for any one person to come and espouse all the solutions and ideas,” he said. “I really want to make sure that I’m engaging with a broad number of stakeholders to create a shared vision for Loyola, our community, the city and the region.” 

Sawyer, who previously served as vice president for administration and vice president for advancement, has also played a vital role in managing the university’s finances. He led the university’s largest ever fundraising effort, the Bright Minds, Bold Hearts campaign, which raised more than $100 million over about four-and-a-half years; these funds grew the university’s endowment by $54 million, created 115 new scholarships and increased the funding of 55 existing scholarships. 

He also oversaw the university’s COVID-19 response.  

Despite being the first lay president, Sawyer has an expansive background in Jesuit education, having graduated from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities’ Ignatian Colleagues Program, which aims to teach university administrators and faculty about the Jesuit and Catholic tradition of higher education. 

“Terry has a deep passion for Ignatian spirituality and formation, which has informed his leadership style and will serve him well as the first lay president of our Jesuit University,” said James Forbes, the chair of Loyola’s Board of Trustees, in a statement.

Sawyer said he is honored to serve at a university that closely follows the values and ideals of Jesuit education, which he said is the longest continuous educational tradition in existence. As a layperson, he said, he hopes not only to continue uplifting that educational model, but to “lean more” into and further commit to Loyola’s mission as a Jesuit Catholic university. 

“I feel ready for that challenge,” he said. 

During his tenure at Loyola, Sawyer had the opportunity to work directly with his two predecessors: Harold Ridley, who served as president until his death in 2005, and Linnane, who retired last June. Working with Ridley and Linnane, Sawyer said, he came to understand that student success is the central — and, in many ways, the sole — priority of a university president. 

“There are many other things that go into that, and, at first glance, they can sometimes almost feel detached from the experience of students. But, ultimately, that’s why we’re here,” he said. “I learned from both of those men that you can never take your eye off of that ball.”