by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s now official. A St. John’s University graduate is President Barack Obama’s White House chief of staff.
Last week, Obama named Denis McDonough to that position after weeks of speculation he would do so. McDonough replaces Jack Lew, whom Obama has nominated to become the new U.S. Treasury secretary.
McDonough is a 1992 summa-cum-laude graduate of SJU, where he earned degrees in history and Spanish. He also played safety on the Johnnies football team under the leadership of legendary coach John Gagliardi. McDonough received the SJU Alumni Achievement Award in 2012.
His appointment as White House chief of staff was heralded by SJU staff and students.
“The St. John’s community is extremely proud of the public service of our alumnus Denis McDonough,” said SJU President Michael Hemesath. “We applaud President Barack Obama’s selection of Denis as his new chief of staff. We are absolutely confident Denis will serve with the integrity and character he has demonstrated throughout his time at St. John’s University and beyond . . . Denis’s professional success is further evidence a Benedictine liberal-arts education is superb preparation for leadership and service at the highest levels of public life, be that in the public sector, the business community or the world of non-profits. We wish Denis all the best in his new role.”
McDonough, 44, was born in Stillwater. After graduating from SJU, he traveled in Latin America and taught school in Belize in Central America. Later, he earned a master’s degree from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.
From 1996 to 1999, McDonough worked as an aide for the U.S. House International Relations Committee, with an emphasis on Latin America. He then became a foreign-policy advistor to U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota). After Daschle was defeated in the 2004 election, McDonough was named legislative director for newly elected Sen. Ken Salazer (D-Colorado). He also served as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in 2004.
Starting in 2008, McDonough was chosen to become presidential candidate Barack Obama’s chief foreign-policy advisor. After Obama’s victory as president, McDonough joined the administration as head of the Strategic Communications branch of the National Security Council. Next, he was chosen to replace Thomas E. Donilon as deputy National Security advisor.
The White House chief of staff is the highest-ranking employee in the executive office of the presidency. McDonough oversees all duties of the White House staff, manages the president’s daily schedule and decides who will get to meet with the president. As such, the chief of staff is informally known as “The Gatekeeper.”
Obama’s previous chiefs of staff were Rahm Emanuel, who resigned to run for the position of Chicago mayor, to which he was elected: and – until Jan. 25, 2013, Jack Lew.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.