An experienced leader, educator, and scholar, Peter Kilpatrick is widely published and holds or shares 12 patents in chemical engineering. He began his career at North Carolina State University and, after 24 years, was recruited by the University of Notre Dame to be dean of engineering. Since 2018, he has been the provost and vice president for academic affairs for the Illinois Institute of Technology—an institution dedicated to lifting up people of all backgrounds. Combining research and faith is important to Kilpatrick, who became Catholic as an adult.
“Serving as president of The Catholic University of America is a dream job for me, bringing together faith and reason in service to the human person and human dignity. I look forward to working with the faculty and community to continue moving Catholic University forward as a top tier research institution that also embraces its excellence in theology and the arts.”
The University community lit up with excitement, anticipation, and a standing ovation on Tuesday, March 29, 2022 as Catholic University held a welcome event to announce the University’s 16th President.
“I would like to warmly congratulate Dr. Peter Kilpatrick on his appointment as the 16th President of The Catholic University of America. His wealth of experience, pursuit of academic excellence, and commitment to the Catholic identity of the University make him well qualified to guide the University into its next era.”
Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory
Archbishop of Washington and Chancellor of the Catholic University
Peter Kilpatrick, Ph.D., was appointed president of The Catholic University of America in March 2022 and will take office on July 1, 2022.
He has been provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Illinois Institute of Technology since 2018 and previously served as professor and McCloskey Dean of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame from 2008 to 2018.
At Illinois Tech, he developed the university’s five-year strategic plan, put in place new leadership, and drove development of an online master of applied science.
During Kilpatrick’s tenure as dean at Notre Dame, the number of faculty at the College of Engineering grew by more than 60% and enrollment by nearly 70%. External research funding more than doubled to over $50 million per year. He also launched Notre Dame’s first joint Ph.D. program with the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, later expanding to programs with universities in Brazil and Hungary.
Kilpatrick also served on the faculty of North Carolina State University in chemical engineering for 24 years, from 1983 to 2007, the last eight-plus years as the department head. Kilpatrick also served as the founding director of the North Carolina Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center, a unique good manufacturing practice (GMP) facility that was designed to train the next generation of biopharmaceutical professionals and biotechnology industry professionals.
He is the author of more than 100 refereed journal articles in the areas of colloid and interfacial science, emulsion science, and molecular self assembly, particularly as they apply to energy and to bioseparations. According to Google Scholar, his work has been cited more than 5,300 times, largely in the areas of emulsions and interfacial and colloidal phenomena. He holds or shares 12 patents and has been actively engaged in two startups.
Kilpatrick is the recipient of numerous teaching and research awards, including the ASEE Regional Teaching Award. He holds an honorary doctorate from the Pázmány Péter Catholic University (Budapest, Hungary), the oldest university in that country. He is past chairperson of the Global Engineering Deans Council and serves as the chairperson of the Clover 2030 International Advisory Board, an initiative focused on reinventing engineering education in Chile.
He received his A.B. in chemistry from Occidental College (summa cum laude) in 1978 and his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1983. He and his wife, Nancy, are the parents of four adult children.
Honors and Awards
Selected National and International Service
What excites you most about becoming president of Catholic University?
As an adult Catholic convert, faith is important to who I am as a person. To be President of the bishops’ University is a dream job — exciting and a little intimidating. I’ve worked my whole professional life to understand higher education and the working of universities. The job will be challenging, and I have a feeling I will eat, sleep, and breathe the job for a while at least, but I feel ready for it.
How are you preparing for the position?
Before July 1, I will have read thousands of pages on the University. I want to learn as much as I can before getting here. And then my plan is to spend time with people. I really need to get to know the people to better understand our possibilities and our greatest needs as a University. I plan to meet with faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, community members. By late fall, I want to have listened to everyone here, either one-on-one or in focus groups and town halls.
How do you see your role in philanthropy?
The President is the fundraiser-in-chief. My role is to share a strategy and vision with donors that is exciting to them and makes them want to be a part of that. Really good fundraising is about strong relationships. I love getting to know people, and I can’t wait to start talking about the future of the University as I build relationships.
As a researcher yourself, how can you further support research on campus?
Every great university has to at the same time be excellent in educating our students and at discovering new knowledge. A modern university can’t just be a teaching institution. We need to be excellent at both, and I’m thrilled by what I see at Catholic University. Faculty have already been successful in major team science research grants, and if they keep believing in themselves, and my job is to support them in that, they will continue to be successful.
Research ultimately is for the good of society. It is not knowledge for knowledge’s sake. And here, I see our researchers and students have put that at the forefront of what they do. That makes for excellence in research.
Are you looking forward to living in D.C.?
I’m not sure how much time I will have to explore, but I’m excited about the museums and restaurants. I love golf and there are some fantastic courses here. My wife Nancy loves theater. D.C. is a great city for that, but we will also have quality performing arts right here on campus. The city is an important part of the University, and I think we are so lucky to have all of this beautiful space right here on campus and such easy access to an amazing city.
What might surprise us about you?
My first job was at a pizzeria. I make really good pizza from scratch. I love to cook. My best dish is paella. I once made paella for 100 people at Notre Dame.
“We could not have asked for a better candidate to lead Catholic University. Peter Kilpatrick is both a distinguished researcher and a creative administrator who sees research at the service of the human person in keeping with his Catholic faith.”
Victor P. Smith, J.D. ’96
Chairman of the Search Advisory Committee and Chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees