I am writing to inform you of my decision to retire from my position as president of St. John’s University at the end of my employment agreement on June 30, 2021, concluding a 36-year career in academia. At this stage in our lives, Clavel and I are ready to begin a new chapter and look forward to spending more time with our family.
It has been the privilege of my life to serve as president of St. John’s University, and this decision was a difficult one, reached after much reflection and prayer. I am very grateful to have spent the past six years working with the St. John’s family—including our dedicated faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, Board of Trustees and Board of Governors—in advancing the University’s mission of providing a quality and affordable education for our students and serving those most in need.
Ensuring student success is our number one strategic priority and this steadfast commitment to our students has guided us in responding to various challenges in higher education while remaining true to the University’s Catholic and Vincentian mission. However, given the increasingly complex issues facing higher education--now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—I strongly believe that the University needs to develop a new and comprehensive strategic plan. To ensure long-term stability and growth, it is both prudent and responsible to select a new president who will be able to provide the extended commitment necessary to lead the planning and implementation of a new strategic plan. I also believe that the long-term vision of the new leadership will play an important role in the University’s forthcoming capital campaign.
I had previously informed the Board of Trustees earlier this year of my decision to retire and was set to make an announcement to the St. John’s community in March when the coronavirus outbreak began to impact our University. With the approval of the Board, the announcement was put on hold because of the urgent need to respond to the pandemic and direct all our attention and efforts towards protecting the health and safety of our students and employees. I remain committed to leading the University during this challenging time until my successor is selected to facilitate a smooth transition to the new leadership. A separate message will be coming to you shortly from the Chair of the Board of Trustees.
I am deeply grateful to all of you for your support during the past six years, but most especially during the recent months when we strived to ensure that our students will be able to continue their education during the pandemic. I commend all of you for your hard work and dedication to our students and to St. John’s University. I thank our loyal alumni and friends for their generosity, and the Board of Trustees, Board of Governors, and the Vincentian community for their valuable counsel and support.
Let us continue to work together through this unprecedented period in our history and remain hopeful as we look forward to the 150thanniversary of St. John’s University. I hope that in the months ahead, I will have the opportunity to personally thank all of you for your understanding and cooperation.
—Conrado "Bobby" Gempesaw, Ph.D. President