John Garvey Headshot

President of The Catholic University of America

John Garvey became the 15th president of The Catholic University of America July 1, 2010.

Garvey is a nationally recognized expert in constitutional law, religious liberty, and the First Amendment. He has won distinguished fellowships and teaching awards and served as the 2008 president of the Association of American Law Schools. Garvey is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including What are Freedoms For? (1996); Religion and the Constitution (2011), which won the Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit book award; and Sexuality and the U.S. Catholic Church (2007), which won the Catholic Press Association Award.

The second of eight children, Garvey was born in Sharon, Pa. From childhood, his Catholic faith has held a central place in Garvey’s life. His father, a small town lawyer, attended daily Mass with Garvey and his brothers and sisters before school. His extended family included devout grandparents on both sides who counted priests and religious among their siblings, nieces, and nephews.

Garvey received his A.B. summa cum laude from Notre Dame in 1970, having participated in an open program of study, then called the Committee on Academic Progress, that waived major requirements for a few students. Garvey took the opportunity to read political science, philosophy and French, and otherwise chose courses of any kind (music, English, art history, German) taught by the best teachers he could find.

After graduation, Garvey entered Harvard Divinity School on a Danforth Fellowship, leaving after one semester. He entered Harvard Law School the following year. He graduated in 1974, clerked for United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit Chief Judge Irving R. Kaufman, then joined the law firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.

In 1976, he began teaching law at the University of Kentucky, an appointment he held until 1994. He spent the 1985-86 school year as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. From 1981 to 1984 he was assistant to the solicitor general of the United States. He argued several prominent cases before the United States Supreme Court, including Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corporation and Heckler v. Campbell, which addressed disability regulation within the Social Security Administration. He was elected to the American Law Institute at age 33. 

Garvey served as a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame from 1994 to 1999, when he was appointed dean of Boston College Law School. During his tenure as dean from 1999 to 2010, he hired 20 new faculty, established an Alumni Association and Board of Overseers, rebuilt the administrative infrastructure, and confirmed an institutional sense of Jesuit, Catholic identity.

Through the years of his leadership at The Catholic University of America, Garvey has emphasized the importance of a distinctively Catholic education in every school and discipline.  During his inaugural year, Garvey hosted a series of prominent intellectuals in disciplines, such as history, music, literature, and science, who presented lectures on the interplay between their ideas about virtue and their scholarly work. Under Garvey, Catholic University launched the School of Business and Economics in 2013, to provide a rigorous business education that fully integrates Catholic Social Doctrine in every aspect of the curriculum.  Garvey has also continued to be a prominent public voice on many contemporary issues in higher ed, culture, law, Catholicism, and religious liberty. He has twice given testimony to the House of Representatives on issues of anti-Semitism (2013) and religious liberty (2012), 

His writing has been published  in mainstream news outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlantic, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Garvey  has appeared on major news networks including ABC, CBS, Fox, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and BBC. Additionally, Garvey has written for and been interviewed by many Catholic news outlets and publications including EWTN, Catholic TV, Vatican Radio, America, Catholic News Agency, Catholic World Report, Famille Chrétienne, First Things, National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Religion News Service, and Touchstone, among others.  He is a regular columnist for Catholic News Service.

Garvey and his wife Jeanne Walter Garvey have five children, 21 grandchildren, and a rescue dog named Gus.

  • The Catholic University of America, president (July 1, 2010)
  • Boston College Law School, dean (1999-2010)
  • Notre Dame Law School, professor (1994-99)
  • University of Michigan Law School, visiting professor (1985-86)
  • University of Kentucky College of Law, professor (1976-94)
  • United States Department of Justice, assistant to solicitor general (1981-84)
  • Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco, California, associate (1975-76)
  • United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, law clerk to Irving R. Kaufman (1974-75)

Professional Service: 
  • Association of American Law Schools, president (2008)
  • Caritas Christi, member of the board of governors (2008-2010)
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts, judicial nominating commission (2005-07); Supreme Judicial Court pro bono committee (2002-05)
  • American Bar Association, member of Task Force on Terrorism (2001-02); reading committee (1989-96)

  • Sexuality and the U.S. Catholic Church, Herder & Herder, 2007 (coauthor)
  • Religion and the Constitution, Aspen, third edition, 2011 (coauthor)
  • What Are Freedoms For? Harvard University Press, 1996
  • Modern Constitutional Theory, West Publishing, fifth edition, 2004 (coauthor)
  • The First Amendment, West Publishing, second edition, 1996 (coauthor)