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President Danko's Biography
James M. Danko is the 21st president of Butler University. Through the establishment of Butler 2020—the University’s strategic plan—Danko has set a course for advancing Butler as a world-class institution, building upon its strong foundation of undergraduate residential education while pursuing creative new programs and approaches. For example, Butler recently established a campus-sharing agreement with adjoining Christian Theological Seminary (CTS). This historic acquisition of land and buildings will allow Butler to grow and optimize its learning environment while bringing new vibrancy to 42nd Street and Sunset Avenue—especially with the College of Education’s upcoming move to the CTS campus.
An innovator at heart and in experience, Danko was a successful entrepreneur in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for nearly two decades before beginning his academic career. He served in business-school leadership roles at institutions including the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dartmouth College, and Villanova University before assuming the Butler presidency in 2011.
Danko is driving the transformation of Butler’s campus to enrich the student experience and strengthen national recognition for the University—including upgrades to academic, research, performance, and athletic spaces and the introduction of state-of-the-art residence halls and themed learning communities. Interest in Butler has reached a record high: the University received 15,000 applications in 2016, an increase of 50 percent over the previous two years.
In the 2019 “Best Colleges” edition of U.S. News and World Report, Butler University was ranked as the No. 1 Regional University in the Midwest. Butler was also ranked the No. 1 Most Innovative School among Midwest Regional Universities for the fourth straight year, as well as the top school for its commitment to undergraduate teaching. Butler’s placement rate for graduates is 97 percent, and in the recent Gallup-Purdue Index, Butler outperformed its peers across most items in graduates’ assessment of their student experience—including faculty support and experiential learning, affinity for their alma mater, and overall well-being.
In 2013, Danko successfully advocated for Butler’s membership in the BIG EAST Athletic Conference, positioning the University in the company of outstanding peers both in the classroom and in athletic competition. Since joining the BIG EAST, Butler has brought home four team championships: Softball, Women’s Soccer, Men’s Soccer, and Men’s Tennis. Danko currently serves on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Presidential Forum and is Vice-Chair of the BIG EAST Board of Directors.
Danko has also prioritized Butler’s central role in the Indianapolis community through the provision of educational, cultural, and professional resources and as a member of the Midtown Anchor Coalition and the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association. The University is a founding partner of The Speak Easy Downtown, a member-based nonprofit that brings established companies and entrepreneurs together in the spirit of growth and acceleration. President Danko also serves as a member of the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee and the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
In 2016, Butler saw the most successful fundraising year in its history, receiving nearly $45.4 million in gifts and commitments. This included the largest single commitment in Butler’s history from an individual or family—$25 million from Andre B. and Julia Lacy to name the Lacy School of Business. Danko is now leading the University’s effort to raise the funds needed for a new business building and sciences complex.
Danko is an alumnus of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland and John Carroll University, where he earned a degree in Religious Studies. He earned his MBA with highest honors from the University of Michigan. He holds a deep commitment to the Jesuit ideals of intellectual growth, social justice, and servant leadership.
Danko is the father of two grown daughters, both of whom reside and work in Indianapolis. He and his wife, Bethanie, live on campus and frequently host Butler students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends at their home. Danko is a loyal Cleveland sports fan and an avid reader of American political history. He and Bethanie are active supporters of the United Way and other nonprofits that work to improve lives in Central Indiana.