PORTLAND, Oregon — Robert Kelly, a vice president from Loyola University in Baltimore, has been named the 21st president of Oregon’s University of Portland.

Kelly, who holds a doctorate in philosophy, becomes the university’s first president who is not a priest or brother from the Congregation of Holy Cross, which founded the school.

He also is the first African American to lead the university in its 121-year history. He assumes office July 1.

Thomas Arndorfer, chairman of the university’s board of regents, made the announcement April 26 outside the school’s Chapel of Christ the Teacher.

“Our goal was to embark upon a thorough, patient, prayerful, transparent and focused search that attracted a deeply qualified and diverse field of respondents,” said Arndorfer.

“We pursued with great passion and conviction the very best possible leader and we are confident that we have found that person — a devout Catholic who will embrace and promote our Catholic identity and Holy Cross charism.”

Holt Cross Father Bill Lies, superior of the U.S. Province of Holy Cross, expressed his support for Kelly, noting that the order’s founder, Holy Cross Father Basil Moreau, “welcomed all to join us in our mission of education — a work of resurrection as he called it.”

The priest said he was proud to welcome Kelly as the university’s first lay president and was committed “to working closely with him for the continuing success of this wonderful institution.”

Kelly said he is grateful and joyful for this new post and added that he was humbled to be the school’s first lay president.

“I come to this position after much discernment and prayer and I do not take this responsibility lightly,” Kelly said, adding that he walks in the footsteps of so many wonderful Holy Cross priests and brothers who preceded him.

Tim Morgan, regent of the University of Portland who led the national search, described Kelly as “a man of profound intellect, inspiring vision and unmatched commitment to the transformative power of Catholic higher education.”

“He is devoted to principles of shared governance; to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice; to broadening access to higher education; to building a great team of leaders and uniting them around a shared vision.”

Kelly holds a doctorate in education policy, planning and administration from the University of Maryland; a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont; and a bachelor’s degree in arts and political science from Loyola University Maryland.

The Pacific Northwest is already familiar territory for Kelly since he once served as vice president for student development and as adjunct professor of education at Seattle University.

Kelly succeeds Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman, who served as president for seven years and has returned to teaching, research, and pastoral duties at the University of Notre Dame.

Since last July, Herbert Medina, the University of Portland’s provost, has also served as its acting president, which Arndorfer expressed gratitude and appreciation for in the April 26 announcement ceremony.

“While many of us were busy shaping the future of UP, it was equally important that the present state of university operations and instruction remain on a positive, upward trajectory,” he said.

Kelly is married to Bridget Turner Kelly, who holds a doctorate in education and teaches at the University of Maryland. They have two children.