University of Dallas Tower


Meet the University's Senior Leadership


Jonathan J. Sanford, PhD, is the 10th president of the University of Dallas, having assumed the position in 2021. As president, Dr. Sanford has dedicated his efforts to leading the University of Dallas to more fully realizing its calling as a premier Catholic liberal arts university by means of a thoroughgoing commitment to academic excellence, a distinctive and thoroughly nurturing approach to forming the character of our students, and the cultivation of true magnanimity in service to church and society.

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.

As provost, Dr. Matthias Vorwerk oversees the University of Dallas’ three academic colleges, the university library and Student Affairs. A native of Detmold, Germany, Vorwerk’s academic expertise is in ancient philosophy, the works of Plato and Plotinus, and the philosophy of human nature. In 1998, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Münster. Vorwerk has written or co-authored four books in German on Plotinus and the history of Platonism, published numerous articles and papers for academic publications and conferences, and is a member of the Board of Directors of American Friends of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation. 

Heather A. Lachenauer is an experienced litigator, appellate advocate and educator who has successfully represented international companies, federal agencies, financial institutions, businesses and individuals. She has advocated on behalf of clients in a variety of pro bono matters involving asylum, the death penalty, and religious liberty, among others. Lachenauer has taught political science, rhetoric, and poetics and aesthetics as an adjunct professor and is a former member of the Board of Regents of St. John Paul the Great Catholic University. She is the co-founder of Epiphany Prep Charter School, a school dedicated to providing quality education to children living in low-income communities in San Diego. 

Prior to practicing law, Lachenauer spent 10 years working in the field of international development and humanitarian aid, with a focus on legal reform and economic development in Central and Eastern Europe and West Africa and the development of sustainable education in Papua New Guinea. 

Lachenauer completed her undergraduate work at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. She studied philosophy and theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology and obtained a master’s degree in education and human development at The George Washington University. She earned her law degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law.

A Virginia native, Lachenauer is a member of the State Bar of California and the State Bar of Texas, and is admitted to practice before multiple federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court.

Ashton Ellis, JD,  PhD, brings an extensive academic background and philanthropic experience to the role. Ellis served for nearly 10 years in fundraising at Hillsdale College, where he oversaw a nationwide team responsible for helping high-networth families make legacy-defining gifts. Prior to Hillsdale College, he taught at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy and was a consultant to the Diocese of Orange in the fight to resist California’s legalizing assisted suicide. He was also awarded a bioethics fellowship by the Paul Ramsey Institute and a Novak Journalism Fellowship by The Fund for American Studies.

Ellis earned his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in 2004 (Phi Beta Kappa), a master’s in public policy and administration from Baylor in 2005, a law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law and a PhD in political philosophy from Claremont Graduate University.  He and his wife Lauren are the proud parents of 10 children. 

Andrew Ellison joined UD in 2023 as the Director of the St. Ambrose Center after a long career devoted to primary and secondary liberal education. As a former teacher, high school headmaster and district administrator for the public charter network Great Hearts, Ellison draws from ample experience in connecting young learners and their parents to the right college. He and his wife are also parents to two current UD students.

Robert Watling, CPA, oversees accounting, audit, treasury, procurement, debt management, student accounts and budget operations at the University of Dallas.

Watling has more than 15 years of finance experience in higher education serving as a chief business officer for a college or administrative division. Prior to joining the University of Dallas in January 2020, Watling was the Vice Provost for Academic Resources at the University of North Texas. In this role, he implemented an academic financial program review to facilitate a more strategic and data-informed allocation of resources. Watling brings valuable private sector experience to his work in higher education. Before focusing his career in higher education, Watling spent about five years in corporate finance focusing on financial statement analysis.

Watling has been a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Virginia since 2007 and in Texas since 2010. He is a member of the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers (SACUBO) chairing the Small Institutions Constituent Committee. Watling holds a bachelor’s degree from George Mason University and an MBA from Virginia Tech. A veteran of the United States Army, Robert was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for service in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Venegas started her career as a reporter and editor at the Orange County Register in Southern California, where she covered local government and community news. She went on to hold several positions in marketing and corporate communications in Orange County and Silicon Valley. Subsequently, Venegas served as president/executive director of Obria Medical Clinics, the largest network of life-affirming women’s health care clinics in Southern California. Most recently, she served as vice president at Curt Pringle & Associates, a public relations and government affairs consulting firm in Southern California. She and her husband, Matt, recently relocated to north Texas, and are proud parents to three school-aged children. 

Ryan D. Reedy, BA ’05 MH ’10, joined the University of Dallas in 2007 and currently serves as chief of staff to President Jonathan J. Sanford.  A graduate of Constantin College (history) and the Braniff Graduate School (humanities), Reedy has a long history with the University of Dallas, having previously served as the coach of the women's soccer team, vice director and assistant dean of the Eugene Constantin Campus in Rome, and assistant provost. In his role as assistant provost, Reedy assisted in the development of the university's strategic plan and coordinated relations with international partners.  As chief of staff, Reedy oversees several offices and strategic initiatives, including the St. Ambrose Center, the Institute for Homiletics, and the Ann & Joe O. Neuhoff Institute for Ministry and Evangelization . A native of Colorado, Reedy, along with his wife and children, lived on the university's Rome campus for seven years before returning to North Texas in 2017.

Dr. John Norris received his Ph.D. from Marquette University.  His research interests include St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and church history. 

Cherie Hohertz, assistant provost for accreditation and strategic initiatives, has been with the University of Dallas for 20 years.  Before serving as assistant provost, she held the position of dean of university libraries and research and director of institutional accreditation.  She has served the university as an adjunct instructor in the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business and is currently the staff accompanist for the music department.

Hohertz holds a bachelor’s of music in piano performance from Millsaps College, a master's of library science from Texas Woman’s University, and is currently a doctoral student in the Satish and Yasmin Gupta College of Business.  Her research interests are centered around employee engagement, leader-member exchange, and job performance. Her most recent publications include articles on using technology to deliver library services to distance education students.

Richard J. Dougherty is a Professor in the Department of Politics at the University of Dallas in Irving, TX, Director of the Graduate Program in Politics, and the Director of the Leo XIII Center for Philosophy and Social Issues. He received his B.A. from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Dallas’s Institute of Philosophic Studies. He edited and contributed to the 2019 work Augustine’s Political Thought (University of Rochester Press), which was selected as a 2020 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. He is a contributor to the most recent volume of Studia Patristica, to Divus Thomas and to The Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, and the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency. His research and teaching interests are in medieval political philosophy, the American presidency, and Catholic political and social thought. 

Dr, Dougherty has taught full-time at the University of Dallas since 1990. In 2016 he served as a State of Bavaria Teaching Scholar as a Visiting Professor of Political Science, Department of Comparative Political Science, Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Inglostadt, Eichstätt, Germany.

In 2020 Dr. Dougherty was recognized as a Haggerty Teaching Excellence Recipient. In 2023 he began as Interim Dean of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts at the University of Dallas. He is the first graduate of the Braniff School to serve as its Dean. Dr. Dougherty’s wife, Julie, is a UD graduate, as are seven of their children (so far).

Philip Harold joined the University of Dallas in 2021 as Professor of Political Science and Dean of the Constantin College of Liberal Arts, which includes all undergraduate programs and the Academic Success Office. Previously he served at Robert Morris University outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he served in a number of administrative positions, including Co-Director of the University Honors Program, Associate Dean of the School of Informatics, Humanities, and Social Sciences, and Interim Dean of the School of Education and Social Sciences. There he worked to create new undergraduate and graduate programs, re-found the University Honors Program and develop it into a signature academic program, and manage a number of successful initiatives pertaining to academic rigor and student enrollment.

Harold holds a MA and PhD in Politics from The Catholic University of America, and a BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He has taught a variety of politics courses, and his research focuses on modern political thought.

J. Lee Whittington formerly served as the founding director of Gupta COB doctoral programs. He focuses his teaching, research and consulting on organizational behavior and spiritual leadership. Whittington has published three books, including “Biblical Perspectives on Leadership and Organizations” and “Enhancing Employee Engagement: An Evidence-Based Approach,” which he authored with fellow professors Simone Meskelis, DBA ’17, Enoch Asare, DBA ’09, and Sri Beldona, Ph.D.

Ron Scrogham joined the University of Dallas in 2019, first as an adjunct instructor of French in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, then as a reference librarian at the Cowan-Blakley Memorial Librarian, eventually being appointed the Dean and Director of Libraries and Research in 2022. Previously he taught French and was the school librarian at a Catholic high School in Kansas City, Mo. Scrogham holds an MA in French from the University of Kansas and an MLS from Emporia State University.  He has published in academic journals for French and library science and has presented at library professional conferences.

Dr. Ronnie J. Rombs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Theology at the University of Dallas. A native of Texas, his doctoral work was in Patristics at Fordham University in New York City. His research and theological interests range from Augustine and the theological development of the Early Church to the twentieth century and the thought of Joseph Ratzinger in particular.

Gregory Roper, Ph.D., has been Associate Professor of English since 2000 and, since August 2021, Dean of Students, where he oversees Residence Life, Housing Operations, Student Activities, the UD Counseling Center, and the UD Health Clinic.

A 1984 B.A. in English from the University, Dr. Roper received his M.A. and PhD in English from the University of Virginia, where he specialized in Middle English literature. He taught at the University of Virginia, Ripon College, and Northwest Missouri State University before returning to his alma mater, where he has served on the Rome campus (2003-05 and 2007-09) and as Chair of English from 2010 to 2019. He has served as the Director of the Shakespeare in Italy high school program and Shakespeare’s Baroque Rome adult program, and helped found the Rome and the Catholic Church program, all on the Due Santi campus. He directed the second season of UD’s film series, Studies in Catholic Faith and Culture, and contributed to the production of The Quest and Baylor’s 100 Days of Dante. A published scholar on Middle English lyrics, the Gawain-poet, and Chaucer, he is also the author of The Writer’s Workshop: Imitating Your Way to Better Writing, Due Santi and the University of Dallas: Un Piccolo Paradiso with Andrew Moran, and awaits the publication of Mastering the Four Arguments. He authored a short book for UD students, A Life Well-Lived: A Student Guide to the Education of the Whole Person, which is the 2023 Disorientation summer read.

A winner of the Haggar Award, the Haggerty Teaching Award, and other teaching awards, Dr. Roper was also inducted into Phi Beta Kappa as an alumnus member and, in 2014, the UD Athletics Hall of Fame. He serves as a Fellow in the Phoenix-based Institute of Classical Education and on the Board of Holy Trinity Seminary.

Mary E. Fleck, Ph.D., joined the University of Dallas in 2017. She currently services as chief human resources officer and oversees talent acquisition, performance management, employee relations, benefits and total rewards, risk mitigation and regulatory compliance.

Fleck has over two decades of higher education leadership experience both in student affairs and academic affairs. Previously, she was associate dean of extended university for California State University Channel Islands, in which she collaborated with faculty chairs to launch eight graduate programs, and established and managed two satellite campuses. Specializing in human resource and organizational development, she also brings over a decade of training, workforce development and accreditation experience from serving in the nonprofit sector and in the nuclear power industry. Dedicated to helping professionals advance in their careers, she has taught management and human resource classes as an adjunct instructor at the University of Dallas and other institutions throughout her career.

Fleck earned the distinguished senior human resource professional (SPHR) certification in 2018 and is a member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). An Ohio native, she earned her master’s and doctorate in the field of Human Resource Development from the University of Toledo. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.