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Conrado "Bobby" Gempesaw, Ph.D., Installed as 17th President of St. John's University

Friday, October 24, 2014

Representatives from 40 academic institutions joined the St. John’s community at the Queens, NY, campus on October 24 for the investiture of Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., as the University’s 17th president.

More than 1,000 guests attended the Investiture Ceremony at 3:30 p.m. in Carnesecca Arena. Earlier in the day, nearly 800 people gathered in Taffner Field House for an Investiture Mass celebrated by Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Brooklyn.

"Today I stand as your 17th president, very much aware that my investiture is a truly historic moment for this University," Dr. Gempesaw said during his address. "I follow in the footsteps of the 16 presidents who led this University since it was founded in 1870, all of whom were Vincentian priests."

"As a teacher and scholar, I have always considered it a privilege to be in the position of transforming the lives of students through the education they receive," Dr. Gempesaw stressed. "Today, as president of St. John's, that privilege is magnified 20,000 fold as I reflect on the responsibility of leading this great University."

"As we celebrate this historic moment in the life of our University, let us be mindful of the Vincentian ideals that form its foundation—and let us recommit ourselves to our shared mission alongside our new president, Dr. Gempesaw, his wife, Clavel, and their family," said Robert A. Mangione, Ed.D., R.Ph., provost.

Very Rev. Michael J. Carroll, C.M. ’09HON, provincial superior, Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, and vice chair of the Board of Trustees, formally commissioned Dr. Gempesaw. Acknowledging him as the new president, Fr. Carroll said, "Dr. Gempesaw, as president of St. John’s University, we entrust to you the leadership of this University, which has been held by the Congregation of the Mission since 1870."

Peter P. D'Angelo ’78MBA, ’06HON, chair of the Board of Trustees, performed the investiture by presenting Dr. Gempesaw with the Presidential Medallion bearing the University crest on its face, symbolizing his custody of St. John’s official seal. The presentation signaled the start of the president's tenure in office. It is worn at commencement ceremonies and other formal academic functions of the University.

Dr. Gempesaw was also presented with the University mace, a symbol of the institution’s values, students, and faculty. The symbols on the St. John’s University mace are all based on the iconography associated with St. John the Baptist, patron saint of St. John's.

"The investiture of a president is a significant event in the history of every university," D'Angelo observed. "It signals both continuity and change. As we continue the tradition of transferring the symbols of administrative authority, we also embrace change—change that comes as a new individual, with a new vision and style, assumes the leadership role of the institution."

Throughout the day, academic and religious dignitaries expressed their confidence in the University’s continued success under Dr. Gempesaw’s leadership. Delivering the homily at Mass, Bishop DiMarzio acknowledged Dr. Gempesaw as a man of faith. "The Lord truly will help you,” said Bishop DiMarzio, “and as we seek the intercession of St. Vincent de Paul, we ask that heavenly assistance is yours."

Edward Cardinal Egan, archbishop emeritus for the Archdiocese of New York, was present at Mass to offer congratulations to Dr. Gempesaw. "Over the years, I have had the honor and privilege of sending scores of young men to St. John’s for the finest education available and a splendid spiritual formation,” he said. “For that, I will never be able to thank you sufficiently."  

Representatives from the University’s various constituencies and the Congregation of the Mission extended their greetings to Dr. Gempesaw. "I’m enormously pleased to welcome Dr. Gempesaw to the ranks of university presidents, and to do so here at St. John’s University, my former academic home and an institution I very much love and respect," said Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., Ed.D., president of DePaul University.

"Great institutions do not become great by presidents alone,” he observed. “But no institution becomes so without great leadership. Please count on the support of the women and men who comprise your sister school, DePaul University. We are proud to work alongside you and for this wonderful institution."

During the ceremony, St. John's Voices of Victory and Mixed Chorus performed Jonathan Nelson's single, "Expect the Great." Students Nicole McHugh ’15TCB and Remy Martin ’16P sang "The Prayer," by Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster.

"Today’s ceremony marked a truly memorable day in the lives of our students and the University community," said Kathryn Hutchinson, Ph.D. ’92G, vice president for Student Affairs.  "We feel so fortunate to be a part of this historic event—welcoming Dr. Gempesaw as our newest president. Despite his busy schedule, he has taken the time to attend many of our student events, getting to know the student body personally."

“Our students were so grateful to have been invited as special guests to today’s Investiture, and those that were asked to play a role in the event could not be more proud," she added.

Shawna-Lei Santos ’16CPS, a member of the women’s volleyball team, addressed Dr. Gempesaw on behalf of the University’s students. “Dr. Gempesaw is our new head coach, and we’re his starting lineup,” she said. “We, the student body, are excited for the future and have great hopes that our beloved St. John’s will become even stronger under the leadership of our 17th president."