July 07, 2023

Dear University community,

This week’s tragic killing on our campus was a painful reminder that our world can be a violent one. At the same time, our community can be a beacon of light amidst such darkness.

Students, faculty, and staff gathered outside Father O’Connell Hall yesterday to remember the life of Maxwell Emerson, the victim, and to pray for his repose. 

Rev. Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., University chaplain, led a moving prayer service that spoke of hope, even in the midst of so much pain. We mourn Mr. Emerson’s loss, though he was not a member of our community. He was our brother. 

Father Aquinas reminded everyone of Mr. Emerson’s loved ones: “We certainly gather for the repose of his soul, consolation for his family and friends. We pray for the police as they investigate and continue to piece together the circumstances of this tragedy.”

Ever since I arrived on campus, I have strived to emphasize that each human life is uniquely made by God in His image and likeness and therefore precious. As an anchor institution of the Brookland neighborhood and for all of D.C., the community looks to us to show God’s love, compassion, and wisdom. We must answer that call each day. We are a people of hope.

Let us pray for a conversion of hardened hearts and for those who inflict violence on our streets. May they find inspiration here on campus and the light of God’s love in their hearts.

Safe Campus

I want to again reiterate that we are a safe campus, but we are not immune from the impacts of violence. For this reason, our Department of Public Safety (DPS) conducts regular security assessments to identify vulnerabilities and evaluate the effectiveness of existing security measures. These assessments help guide decision making regarding the type and deployment of the many security measures available to us. 

One such measure, which has been studied from time to time, could be to erect a fence around our perimeter with gates or checkpoints to gain entry. However, several factors must be considered: campus safety (always our paramount concern), as well as pedestrian and vehicular congestion, ability of first responders to navigate the footprint, campus layout, local regulations, zoning laws, and the perceptions of our neighbors. We will continue to assess security measures in collaboration with DPS, administration, members of our community, and local officials.

Several members of our community wrote to me asking about the timing of the incident and the channels of communication. The campus community was informed about the incident via email at 10:42 a.m. The letter at the end of the work day provided all the information we had gathered over those hours, a process that required exacting attention to ensure the information was accurate, as it often changes quickly under such stressful and dynamic circumstances. I do realize that there can never be too much communication in such instances, even if it is simply to report that investigations continue. We are continuously working to ensure members of the campus community receive timely information and feel reassured about their safety and well-being.

We have in place a staff of trained professionals, including commissioned special police officers, who focus on crime prevention and investigation, safety education, emergency preparedness, response, and recovery on campus. Additionally, a search is underway for an Emergency Response Manager, a new position that I have tasked with training and coordinating all responses to emergency situations.

DPS deploys 8 to 10 campus special police officers on each shift. Those officers continuously patrol the entire campus footprint in vehicles, on foot, and on bike. Additionally, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has the responsibility of patrolling the immediate areas surrounding campus 24/7. DPS also works very closely with MPD and they each have police radios to connect directly with each other in real time. 

More details about some of the strategies, trainings, and methods that are provided to ensure that Catholic University remains safe, can be found here.

I also want to remind you that counseling resources are available. Campus Ministry, the Counseling Center, and the Office of the Dean of Students are available to support members of the University community should you need it.

Should you have additional questions or want to contact me please feel free to contact me here.


Last weekend, I marked my first year as the 16th president of The Catholic University of America. It has been an honor to serve the American university of the Catholic Church and I greatly appreciate all that our faculty, staff, and students have done to welcome me and to help to advance the University’s mission. 

I said during my installation address last November that our goals are to be recognized as the nation’s premier Catholic research university, increase enrollment, and come together as a community. While we still have more road to travel to meet these goals, I am confident that the progress we’ve seen in just a year portends great promise with additional effort.

I cannot achieve these goals alone. Over the past year, I have spent thousands of hours at different gatherings to listen and learn about ways we can make our University a better place. I am grateful for the time, feedback, and ideas. They have provided inspiration for my thinking and approach. 

The University community has truly come together over the past year and successfully tackled one of its most pressing issues — increasing enrollment. 

I am proud to report that we recruited the largest incoming first-year class in more than 10 years, and we anticipate a large increase in the number of graduate students for the fall. We anticipate that there will be 893 new first-year — up from 794 this time last year — which is a 12.5% increase. And we will see 467 new master’s students, up from 285 — a 64% increase. We will also have 86 new doctoral students, which is similar to last year.

Our Vice President for Enrollment Management, Dee Gipson, brought new energy to the task this year, but Dee and her team did not work in a silo. They were supported on all sides by University Communications and Marketing, the Office of the Provost, Student Affairs, Advancement, Finance and Administration, all of the Deans and Department Chairs, and many others across campus who stepped up to do what they could to support recruitment and enrollment efforts.

I am convinced that Catholic University is headed toward some of its very best years, continuing its well-earned reputation of providing an excellent education to students who go on to do great things in our society. We have all the ingredients to become a destination for students from all parts of our nation and the world to obtain a high quality education in one of the most impactful and international cities in the world.

Over the next year, we will continue to build on our enrollment success. With larger numbers on campus, we can give focus to our other priorities, such as the building of community.

Simply put, our biggest asset is our community made up of students, faculty, and staff.  It took me no time at all to recognize the unique and extraordinary qualities of the community on our University campus. With this in mind, I will be looking for ways to harness this joy and energy of our faculty, staff, and students to serve the greater community. I look forward as well to having more discussions and input to help achieve this goal.

Together, we are forging a bright path for the University to carry out our mission in service to the Church and our nation. I look forward to making even more progress in the coming year.

Supreme Court Rulings

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled on important cases that impact higher education. 

In one case, the Court ruled that the race-conscious admissions programs used by Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the Constitution. In light of that ruling, I want to affirm that The Catholic University of America welcomes and encourages diversity on our campus, and this decision will have no impact on those continuing efforts.  We are deeply committed to the diverse students on our campus and to providing opportunity and access to those students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Indeed, the last two entering classes have been the most diverse in our history.

The Catholic Church’s teaching, which comes from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, emphasizes the dignity and value of every human person. And it is because we have a diverse campus that we can provide our students with an educational experience that prepares them to be citizens who contribute to our nation, just as our founder, Pope Leo XIII, charged us when chartering the University in 1887.

The ruling does not change Catholic University’s approach to valuing diversity in our campus community as we welcome students to our faith-based campus who seek to continue their educational and spiritual journeys.

The second ruling regarding student loan forgiveness highlights some of the challenges higher education faces. Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality post-secondary education if they so choose. Unfortunately, the costs of higher education have continued to rise over the last several decades due to a number of factors, which has made the dream of a college education less affordable — and in some cases, inaccessible.

Catholic University has been a leader in providing students with scholarships and grants to offset the cost of attending the University. Our robust financial aid gives students of many different backgrounds the opportunity to be part of our diverse campus community. In fact, our recently completed Light the Way campaign raised more than $500 million, which includes millions of dollars in scholarships. These generous donations help offset the cost of attendance and reduce or even eliminate — the need for student loans. We will continue and expand our efforts at fundraising in the coming months and years to make our education affordable for all students who desire to come to Catholic University.

We are charged with educating and giving back to the nation her best citizens. Providing generous financial support to students and families in need is central to this mission.


Peter Kilpatrick, President