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During Father Lawton’s 10 years as president, the university has seen steady increases in student enrollment. The total number of students has grown from 7,100 students in 1999 to 8,872 students in 2010, with the largest growth occurring at the undergraduate level. The number of full-time tenured faculty has increased by almost 30 percent.

LMU was ranked in the top four universities in the West with master’s degree programs in the annual evaluation of universities in the United States by US News & World Report for 2010. In 2010, the Princeton Review named LMU as one of the best colleges in the West.

In 2009-2010, LMU was named as a "top producer" of Fulbright awardees among institutions with master's degree programs by the The Chronicle of Higher Education, with two awards granted to students. In addition, one faculty member at LMU was recently awarded a Fulbright Award.

The university is located in urban Los Angeles, which Father Lawton describes as the “largest classroom in the world” representing people richly diverse in culture, interests and backgrounds, access and opportunities. The student body represents this diversity and LMU has been named among “Top 100 Colleges for Hispanics” by The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education for 2009. LMU’s student population is 19% Hispanic, 13% Asian/Pacific Islander, 8% African American and 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native.

LMU has demonstrated a strong commitment to support and contribute to the community of Los Angeles. In 2007, the university was recognized as a "Treasure of Los Angeles" for all of its contributions that help shape the city. Students volunteer more than 170,000 hours a year with 350 community organizations.

Born in Cumberland, Md., Father Lawton entered the Society of Jesus in July 1965. In 1971, he was graduated summa cum laude from Fordham University, where he studied classics and was accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa honors society. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in 1977 in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, where he was a Danforth and a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. He was ordained a Catholic priest on June 13, 1981.

From 1977 to 1979, Father Lawton served in several positions at Georgetown University, including assistant professor in the Department of Theology. After additional studies in Germany, he taught Hebrew and Aramaic at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome from 1982 to 1984. In 1984, he became an assistant dean of Georgetown College, the college of arts and sciences of Georgetown University, and in 1989 he was named its dean.

Father Lawton is active in the Los Angeles community. He served on the Ambassador Hotel Commission to determine the most appropriate treatment for the site of the Robert F. Kennedy shooting, balancing history with the educational needs of poor urban students. He is also on the board of directors of the United Way, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation.

Father Lawton is a trustee of LMU and Loyola High School of Los Angeles. He is a member of the board of directors of the William H. Hannon Foundation. From 2005 to 2007, Father Lawton served as the chairman of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU). He was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) for a three-year term. He also serves on NAICU’s Committee on Student Aid.

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