Getting to Know Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P.

Father Shanely speaking with students in Taffner Fieldhouse
February 2, 2021

As Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., joins the St. John’s University family and begins his tenure as our 18th President, here are some fun facts to know about him.

When and where were you born?      

July 7, 1958, in Warwick, RI

Any siblings?                                     

I am the youngest of five children. I have one sister, Kathryn, and two brothers, Michael and Andrew. My fraternal twin brother, Paul, died in 2019.

What was it like growing up in Rhode Island?         

A great experience. Family life was centered on our local parish, sports, and Providence College, where my mother worked as a librarian.

Were you a good student?

Yes, but only an average athlete. In high school, I was a running back on the football team and a catcher on the baseball team.

What attracted you to attend Providence College?

It is a great school, and I received tuition remission since my mom was a librarian at the college.

What was your major?                                   

I earned a B.A. in history and graduated in 1980. I spent my junior year studying abroad.

What historical person do you admire?         

A person in history that I have read the most about and long admired is President Abraham Lincoln.

You were first exposed to the Dominican religious order at Providence and discerned your vocation as an undergraduate before entering the seminary upon graduating college.

I did, and it has been a wonderful vocation journey. In a word, Providence College was “providential” for me.

What would you be doing if you were not a college President?

Probably a college professor or a lawyer

Favorite food?                                                

Spaghetti carbonara

With red wine or white wine?                       

Red, a nice Pinot noir

Favorite dessert?                                

Almost anything chocolate

iPhone or Android?                           


Book or e-reader?                              


Favorite vacation spot?                                  

Cape Cod, MA

Ocean or pool?                                               


Favorite sport to follow?                   

I like them all.

What are you currently reading?       

I just ordered the bestseller, Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future by James Shapiro. I am also reading the third encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, subtitled “on fraternity and social friendship.”

What are you watching on Netflix?   

I finished watching The Crown, and I took a break from watching Ozark to watch The Queen’s Gambit. I really enjoyed that series.

Do you play chess?                            

I used to play chess often, but I have not played in some time.

Describe your ideal day off.              

Prayer, exercise, play golf, have a good meal, and watch some sports.

What was the first sporting event you remember attending?

A Red Sox game at Fenway Park

Who was your childhood sports idol?           

Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski

What is on your bucket list?

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted some things on my bucket list. This past year, I had plans to travel to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Final Four Basketball Championship, and I was also going to tour Napa Valley, CA. I had plans to attend the Maui Invitational Men’s Basketball Tournament in Hawaii. I still wish to do all of those things and more.