Catholic Distance University celebrated 40 years of its mission to communicate the mind and heart of the Church in a digital world. The annual CDU gala was held at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, Virginia. A symbolic way to celebrate 40 years, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington is the founding diocese of CDU. It was a night to remember when Dr. Michael P. Warsaw, the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of EWTN Global Catholic Network, was honored with the Founders Award, the university’s highest distinction.

In addition, President Emeritus Marianne Evans Mount, Ph.D., was presented with the Vatican’s Dame of St. Gregory Cross by Papal Nuncio, His Eminence Cardinal Christophe Pierre, and the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, President of the USCCB. This distinction is highly deserved. Dr. Mount has a storied history of supporting Catholic education and evangelization. Since the establishment of the Order of St. Gregory the Great on September 1, 1831, only 25 people have been awarded the Grand Cross. The honor is bestowed upon individuals in recognition of their personal service to the Holy See and the Catholic Church, their extraordinary labors, and the examples they set in their communities and their countries.

The gala drew guests from all across the world to join the Convocation Mass, including graduates, faculty, staff, supporters, friends, and family.


Dr. Maria Sophia Aguirre named CDU’s next president

After announcing her retirement last year, Dr. Marianne Evans Mount passed the reins of the Office of the President to someone new. Dr. Mount was involved in CDU leadership in many capacities before becoming president in 2008. Her passion to see the university succeed has influenced her to remain involved in the university, including by becoming a trustee of the Board.

Following a wide search full of talented candidates at the top of their field, Dr. Maria Sophia Aguirre was selected as the new president of CDU in June 2023. A dynamic, leading-edge addition to the university, Dr. Aguirre is a visionary who is equipped and ready to carry the university into the future.


The premier Catholic online university of the future

Dr. Aguirre’s remarks at the gala called to mind the opportunity that higher education has at this moment in time. She announced that program offerings will expand and diversify in the next five years to include disciplines in Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality, education, economics, and big data – all taught through a theologically sound lens. The university will also begin to offer more programs in Spanish and its first program in Italian in its efforts to grow in both Latin America and Italy.

“There is a great need to prepare people capable of engaging in new technologies while being firmly rooted in a sound Christian anthropology and a solid intellectual and spiritual formation. Scientists who are working in these fields see the need for a university such as ours to fill this void, and they are excited about collaborating with us. The new degrees will help our students widen their impact by preparing them to take leadership roles in fields that are in great need of recuperating the meaning of the human person, of social life, and culture,” Aguirre said.

In addition to the new programs, the university is planning to create a new center for research dissemination.

“We will seek to reach a wider audience, thematically and geographically, with our unique online model,” Aguirre said. “We will expand so as to meet a demand in high-growing markets that thirst for what CDU has to offer. If we don’t seize the moment now, it will be gone.”


Catholic Distance University renamed Catholic International University to align with the evolution of the institution

It was also announced that the university’s name will be changed to Catholic International University to more closely align with the future evolution of the mission of the college. “We are person-centered, we want every interaction to be a point of encounter because we see the “I” and the “you” in everything we do.”-commented Aguirre.


High achievement for the university

This year, CDU was ranked fourth among the top online theology programs by Forbes, CDU being the top Catholic online theology program. The Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts degree was ranked 17th out of 3,000 online programs by, a trusted resource for higher education program rankings and planning. The gala highlighted all of these achievements and more, all while celebrating the class of 2023 graduates.