UNIVERSITY NEWS | Rev. Robert B. Lawton, S.J., the 14th president of Loyola Marymount University, will be honored with a Doctorate in Humane Letters during a ceremony on Jan. 24, 2019. Lawton, who was president from 1999–2010, articulated and pursued a vision of LMU as the preeminent Catholic university of the West Coast. He led the university through an era of significant change that included the move to University Hall, the Right Place. Right Time. Campaign, significant investments in infrastructure and campus construction, and improvements to many academic programs, including in ethics, law, theology, education, film and television.
“We thank Father Lawton for today’s LMU and our shared vision of LMU’s future,” said President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D. “His legacy reverberates throughout our campuses in the boldness of our ambitions, in the intellectual prowess and diversity of our faculty and students, and in the strength of our programs. When we bestow LMU’s highest honor on Father Lawton, we recognize and celebrate his visionary leadership and his everlasting impact on our university, which reinvigorated our symbiosis with L.A. and shepherded us onto new pathways.”
Father Lawton came to LMU from Georgetown University, where he served as dean of Georgetown College, the liberal arts and sciences college. During Father Lawton’s LMU tenure, the university flourished academically by adding nearly 100 full-time tenure and tenure-track professors, including five endowed President’s Professors on the Westchester campus and six endowed chairs at Loyola Law School. During his presidency, LMU became a top producer of Fulbright Scholars.
He also shaped the student academic experience. In 2000, the Bioethics Institute opened and inaugurated a master’s degree program in bioethics and healthcare; in 2003, the School of Film and Television was established, and has become recognized nationally among the best in the nation; and in 2004, the School of Education established the first doctoral program at LMU, the Ed.D. in Leadership for Social Justice. During these exciting years, Loyola Law School added the Center for the Study of Law and Genocide, the Center for Juvenile Law and Policy, the Civil Justice Program, the Journalist Law School and the Sports Law Institute. Father Lawton also championed Study Abroad.
Father Lawton prioritized diversity and inclusion. In August 2001 he appointed Abbie Robinson-Armstrong, Ph.D., as assistant to the president for intercultural affairs, later elevating the position to vice president. He instituted a diversity scorecard project, beginning in 2002, to monitor the university’s progress for equity for historically underrepresented students in access, retention, institutional receptivity and excellence. Father Lawton put LMU at the forefront of diversity initiatives.
The physical environment of LMU expanded under Father Lawton’s tenure, including the construction of the O’Malley Student Apartments, which opened in 2000, Leavey 4 and 5 in 2002, Leavey 6 in 2005, and Del Rey North and South in 2005. Shortly after he became president, LMU doubled its academic space with the addition of University Hall, an acquisition that was years in the making. In 2008, the student-run Thomas P. Kelly Jr. Student Art Gallery was opened. But the crowning achievement came in 2009, with the dedication of the William H. Hannon Library, LMU’s world-class research facility and the academic heart of the Westchester campus. Lawton Plaza, located in front of the library, was dedicated in 2010 in his honor.
Father Lawton also made the university’s mission a priority. Under his leadership, the university established the Center for Ignatian Spirituality in 2000; the Huffington Ecumenical Institute in 2007, to study and provide positive encounters between the Catholic and Orthodox churches; a Catholic Studies minor concentration in 2007; and a Jewish studies minor concentration in 2008. The College of Business Administration added the R. Chad Dreier Chair in Accounting Ethics in 2002.
Father Lawton’s keen guidance led to the formation and introduction in 2008 of the 20-year Master Plan to modernize the campus; he also oversaw the development of the IT infrastructure that has transformed the way students and faculty members utilize technology; and he spearheaded the university’s fundraising efforts, which were the most ambitious in the university’s history at that time, providing significant contributions to the university endowment.
An invitation to the degree conferral is forthcoming.