Hibbs will step down as president on June 30, 2021, and will continue to serve UD’s mission as president emeritus effective July 1, 2021.
“While the board reluctantly accepts President Hibbs’ decision to transition out of the president’s role, without doubt, he has set the University of Dallas on a course for a prosperous future,” said Richard Husseini, BS ’88, Chair of the Board of Trustees.
Read Board Statement
Husseini added, “Shortly after assuming the presidency of the University of Dallas, Tom initiated, in collaboration with the board, the development of a new strategic plan. His decision to step aside now that the plan has been developed will enable him to remain involved in the future of UD through the development of a center designed to strengthen UD’s Catholic character and bring the university’s voice into the public discussion of culturally significant issues.”
Sanford has been an integral part of Hibbs’ leadership team as provost and is intimately involved in the development of the new strategic plan. Sanford has also taken the lead in advancing educational excellence at the University of Dallas; developed new means to communicate that excellence to external audiences such as the creation of Liberal Learning for Life initiative; created new partnerships and expanded the university’s reach and reputation; and exercised steadfast and stalwart leadership.
“Provost Sanford has been instrumental in leading the university through the development of a new strategic plan, and he has the full confidence and trust of the board to fulfill the university’s educational mission and in implementing that plan with the support of a strong team with Dr. Hibbs and Executive Vice President John Plotts. I’m confident this leadership team will position UD for continued success and future growth,” said Husseini.
“President Hibbs is a man of remarkable character, wisdom and vision,” said Sanford. “In a short period of time he has done a great deal for the University of Dallas, and we will reap the benefits of his presidency for many years to come. It is with joy and gratitude that I look forward to continuing to work with President Hibbs.”
“I look forward to working with incoming President Sanford for many years to come,” said Hibbs. “He’s been a great partner to me since my becoming president, and I hope and pray to be equally valuable to him as he assumes that role.”
John Plotts, Ed.D., who will continue in his role as executive vice president of the university, said, “I have been incredibly blessed to serve with both President Hibbs and incoming President Sanford. I look forward to continuing to work with both of them in the years ahead.”
Chancellor of the University of Dallas Most Reverend Edward J. Burns, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, said, “I have high admiration and appreciation for all three members of the UD leadership team — incoming President Sanford, President Hibbs and former Interim President Plotts. They know the challenges and are determined to bring forth a first-rate Catholic university. They are scholars and administrators who have a firm grasp of higher education in the Catholic tradition. I am grateful for their faith, vision, commitment and dedication. I congratulate incoming President Sanford and, as the chancellor of the university, I am confident that this presidential transition will set the University of Dallas on course for great things to come in the years ahead.”
Thomas S. Hibbs, Ph.D., BA ’82 MA ’83, serves as the ninth, and first alumnus, University of Dallas president. During his tenure, he has made increased philanthropy and improved marketing, communications and national branding a hallmark of his presidency.
His philanthropic efforts were marked by an immediate and dramatic increase in the number of new endowed scholarships established by the university. In the 2019-20 academic year alone, Hibbs’ leadership team secured 16 new endowments. Hibbs also secured new grants for priorities of his administration, including a $750,000 grant for first-generation students. His team also set records in annual giving, including a record-breaking North Texas Giving Day. Overall philanthropic revenue jumped 24% in the 2019-20 academic year compared to the previous year and 45% from two years earlier.
Hibbs’ leadership team has also vastly increased the marketing and communications efforts of the University of Dallas. During his tenure, he has established the Presidential Conversations series and instituted collaborations with national organizations including the American Enterprise Institute, the Religious Freedom Institute and the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture. Hibbs has been a frequent op-ed contributor in The Dallas Morning News, and revamped UD’s alumni communications — including its Tower magazine and Presidential UpDates. The university’s active social media channels have grown in popularity, and the energetic and inspiring view of the life of the university has helped us share our story with alumni and aspiring students.
Hibbs is also leading the university through a challenging time during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many universities struggled, both UD’s Irving and Rome campuses opened for in-person, residential learning in the fall of 2020. He also worked with the Diocese of Dallas to establish a Homiletics Center at UD and initiated a new strategic plan for the university, the first such plan in nearly a decade.
Hibbs was previously dean of the Honors College and distinguished professor of Ethics and Culture at Baylor University, where he now holds the title dean emeritus. Before that, he was full professor and chair of the Philosophy Department at Boston College. Hibbs has written eight books, including three on the thought of Thomas Aquinas, and more than 30 scholarly articles. He has published more than 100 reviews and discussion articles on film, theater, art and higher education in a variety of venues including First Things, The Dallas Morning News, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Atlantis, The Wall Street Journal and National Review.
Incoming President Sanford came to the university as dean of Constantin College in 2015 and was elevated to provost in 2018. As provost, Sanford oversees all academic deans of the university’s four schools, the dean of the library, the dean of students, the dean of the Rome campus, Athletics, and Campus Ministry. He also oversees special outreach projects such as UD’s Studies on Catholic Faith and Culture, as well as the Office of Personal and Career Development.
At Hibbs’ invitation, Sanford managed the development of the university’s new strategic plan, and Board Chair Richard Husseini noted, “He is ideally suited to ensure the implementation of the strategic plan as president. Both as dean and as provost, he has excelled in strengthening the faculty and encouraging our students to excel in their studies and in their post-graduate appointments; developed a greater focus on grants and awards; built new philanthropic opportunities; strengthened UD’s Catholic identity; overseen the development of new programs and initiatives; and elevated the university’s reputation.”
Sanford, who holds the rank of professor and is tenured in the Philosophy Department, graduated summa cum laude from Xavier University in classical languages and philosophy in 1997, received his doctorate from the University of Buffalo, State University of New York in 2001, and received a postdoctoral fellowship from Fordham University in 2001-02. Sanford served at Franciscan University of Steubenville for 13 years before joining the University of Dallas in 2015. In his administrative work at Franciscan University, he held the positions of associate vice president for academic affairs and chair of philosophy, and also served in the role of the principal elected faculty representative.
Sanford has published widely on philosophical figures and topics and has made significant contributions especially in foundational questions in moral philosophy, as evidenced in Before Virtue: Assessing Contemporary Virtue Ethics (The Catholic University of America Press, 2015 (paperback, 2019)). Sanford is currently writing a book on virtue and education. He lectures widely to both scholarly and popular audiences on a variety of topics. For the past three years, on the third Monday of each month, he has hosted the “Good News at UD” portion of the Good News Show on KATH 910. Sanford is a trustee of the Hildebrand Project, a member of the executive committee and the executive council of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, a member of the Dallas board of Legatus, a fellow of the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture, and a board member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and is active in several other professional and academic organizations. His wife, Rebecca, is a registered nurse and founding board member of Mighty Is Her Call, a Catholic mothers’ ministry recognized by the Diocese of Dallas. The Sanfords have nine children and one granddaughter and live with their younger children in Irving, Texas.
Plotts joined the University of Dallas in December 2008. He currently serves as executive vice president of the university and served as interim president during the 2018-19 academic year. During his tenure, Plotts has revamped the university’s admission process; overseen student life and athletics; overseen the finance, legal and human resources functions; and served as the university’s informal ambassador to the City of Irving’s governmental officials.
Previously, he held the position of vice president for enrollment and accreditation at Parker University, where he restructured and re-engineered the college's planning and evaluation process, implemented a new strategic retention program and raised more than $1 million through strategic business partnerships, as well as a host of other accomplishments. He was also the dean of enrollment management at Parker University for more than two years. Some of his triumphs in that role included creating an enrollment management model, establishing targeted recruiting efforts, and enrolling a class with the highest GPA in the school's history.
Plotts received his Ed.D. from the University of North Texas, his master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary and his bachelor's degree from Clarks Summit University of Pennsylvania.
The University of Dallas, located in a metropolitan area of nearly 7 million people, is a leading Catholic university widely recognized for academic excellence by well-known publications, organizations and accrediting bodies. It offers distinctive individual undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs in the liberal arts, business and ministry that are characterized by an exceptional, engaged faculty, a commitment to shaping principled, well-skilled leaders and academic rigor in the Catholic intellectual tradition. For more information, visit udallas.edu.