Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., is the 17th President of St. John’s University, one of the nation’s largest and most diverse Catholic universities with more than 20,000 students from 36 states and 119 countries. He is the first lay president in the 150-year history of the private, Catholic, and Vincentian university. St. John’s University, located in New York City, has campuses in Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan. The University also has a campus in Rome, Italy, and academic locations in Hauppauge, NY; Paris, France; and Limerick, Ireland.
Upon assuming his position as president in July 2014, he instituted a comprehensive University-wide planning process focusing on four strategic priorities: ensuring student success; hiring outstanding faculty, administrators and staff; enhancing the teaching and learning environment; and expanding domestic and global partnerships. These strategic priorities reflect a commitment to shared ownership and responsibility to promote academic excellence and advance the Vincentian mission of St. John’s University. Since 2014, St. John’s experienced impressive growth in freshman enrollment, with record total enrollment achieved in 2019. Student success metrics have also improved significantly. Sustained increases in retention rates have resulted in the highest four-year graduation rates since 1990, the highest six-year graduation rates since 1998 and the highest number of degrees conferred in more than 30 years. Career placement rates have averaged 94% since 2015. In addition, St. John’s has been recognized as one of the top national universities in social mobility by U.S. News and World Report, ranking first among national Catholic universities and universities, a reflection of its mission to provide quality education especially to those most in need. During his tenure as president, the University instituted fiscal measures to prioritize expenditures and allocate its resources carefully to control the rising cost of higher education. Without incurring additional long-term debt, substantial capital improvements and deferred maintenance projects were undertaken to enhance the teaching and learning environment for faculty and students. Private gifts to the University have increased substantially, with record amount of funds raised in the last three years.
He is an accomplished scholar, teacher, and administrator, with more than three decades of academic and administrative experience and leadership in higher education. Prior to his appointment at St. John’s University, he served as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Miami University in Oxford, OH. Previously, he served as Dean of the University of Delaware’s (UD) Lerner College of Business and Economics and Vice Provost for Academic and International Programs. He also served as Interim Dean of UD’s College of Arts and Sciences and Chair of the Department of Food and Resource Economics. He joined UD as an assistant professor in 1985, was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in 1989, and was promoted to full professor in 1993.
His field of research and expertise is in higher education administration, financial simulation analysis, marketing, and international trade. He has published more than 100 journal articles and conference proceedings and supervised 32 master’s theses and dissertations. He is a past editor of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review (ARER) and was recognized as an ARER Fellow for sustained excellence in research and commitment to the journal. He earned his B.A. in Economics from Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines, M.S. in Agricultural Economics from West Virginia University, and Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Penn State University. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Award from the University of Delaware’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the Outstanding Alumni Award from Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences. He was recognized with the 2017 Penn State Graduate School Alumni Society Lifetime Achievement Award and was the speaker for the summer 2017 Penn State graduate commencement. He was also recognized by City & State, New York among the 2020 Higher Education Power 50 representing the most influential leaders of New York colleges and universities.
He is a member of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees and Board of Governors and the BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors. He previously served as the chair of the Steering Committee of the Lower Hudson Valley Catholic College and University Consortium (LHVCCUC) and as a former Board of Trustees member of The Commission on Independent Colleges & Universities in New York. He is the BIG EAST Conference representative on the NCAA Division I Presidential Forum and is a member of the Presidential Forum Steering Committee. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Mannington Mills, Inc.
He is married to Clavel Albay Gempesaw, who earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the University of Delaware. They have two sons, Daniel, married to Karen, and David, married to Nicole, and are proud grandparents of Wesley and Aria.