The Role Model

USD's former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Patrick Drinan.


He’s proud of the faculty he’s built. He’s proud that the Donald P. Shiley Center for Science and Technology was built under his watch. He’s proud of USD’s advances in academic integrity. And he’s proud of his filing system.

Huh? Well, outgoing College of Arts and Sciences Dean Patrick Drinan’s filing system may not be in the same lofty category as his other achievements, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

“One of my passions is information,” Drinan says. “I have one of the best filing systems on campus. Sister Furay, for years the provost, used to come down here when she’d lose things. And she was pretty darned good about that kind of thing.”

With a filing system that’s numbered and cataloged and meticulously ordered — his most current curricula vitae can be found right where it belongs, in the file marked 7.01 — all the information he’s gathered since becoming dean in 1989 is at his fingertips.

Now, after a 16-year stint, Drinan has decided to leave the dean’s position at the end of the spring semester, though he’ll teach at USD as a full-time professor. “Whether he is the dean or not, Dr. Drinan will remain one of the important leaders of this university,” says USD President Mary Lyons. “Among the most significant legacies of Dean Drinan’s leadership is the quality of faculty he hired during his tenure.”

It’s also one of Drinan’s proudest accomplishments. He took the number of tenure-track faculty from about 115 when he started, to some 190 —130 of whom he hired — by the fall of 2005.

And along the way, he’s kept the liberal arts character of the college front and center, while seeking “excellent faculty who know that most of their career success is going to come from teaching undergraduates successfully.” At the same time, he brought the average teaching load down from 24 units annually to 18 units now. “That gives faculty time to pursue excellence in both teaching and research,” Drinan says.

He may have well-developed ideas about the importance of a strong faculty, but it doesn’t take long to discover Drinan’s true passion. It’s when he starts talking political science that he puts his foot up on his desk and settles into the conversation.  He reads four newspapers a day and talks politics with his wife, Mary Ann, also a political scientist, a few hours “every single day, even on vacation,” he enthuses.

He’s made a point of keeping his hand in the classroom by teaching a course a year as dean, usually an international relations seminar. “It keeps me abreast of the entire field of international politics. I love teaching it. It’s analytical, historical.” When it comes to how USD history will look at his years here, the completion of the Donald P. Shiley Center for Science and Technology is likely his splashiest achievement. The feat took “a lot of time and a lot of people working on it together.”

Among his many accomplishments, he points to increasing faculty diversity, earning Phi Beta Kappa status, strengthening academic integrity and developing a Master of Fine Arts program that has earned a national reputation among his successes. And he strongly believes that the school is strengthened by an increased discourse about the Catholic identity of USD.

But now he’s reinventing his role on campus. He says that the culmination of several long projects — including the general education renewal, the completion of the Donald P. Shiley Center for Science and Technology and Camino Hall’s renovations of art studios and classroom space — helped him realize it was time to move on.

Besides, he didn’t want to find himself staying in the same post for too long. “The college needed new blood,” he says. “My successor is going to be a marvelous dean. He’s a fine man.” That fine man is Nicholas Healy, previously associate dean at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in New York, who is scheduled to start July 1.

When he thinks about his own legacy, Drinan comes back to his work as a political scientist. “I really like to think about the political culture in the very best sense of the term,” he says. “I’m not one of these people who wants to lead by surprise or be unpredictable. I like to court predictability. You should expect people to do their best. You have to model that for others.”

But the truth is that there will be some poignancy in vacating the dean’s office. “When you leave a position like this, you miss the dedicated staff. We’ve built a great staff here. It’s hard to think of doing something else. It’s the people you’re going to miss more than anything.”

That said, he’s looking forward to having more time to spend with his seven grandchildren and to getting back to teaching full time before taking a sabbatical next spring. One project he’s planning to dig into is his research into the organization Opus Dei’s relationship to the democratization of Spain. With the attention The DaVinci Code has drawn to Opus Dei, Drinan finds himself in demand on the lecture circuit.

“I’m having a lot of fun with that,” he says. “The intellectual life ought to be playful. You ought to work hard — and it ought to be playful and enjoyable.” — Kelly Knufken

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