Earlier today, Dr. Gempesaw shared with you the decision he has made, after a 35-year academic career, and with his current contract scheduled to conclude in June 2021, to retire as the 17th President of St. John’s University.
As Dr. Gempesaw noted in his message, he informed the University’s Board of Trustees of his decision several months ago but deferred moving forward at that time in light of the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus, which has profoundly impacted our society, including our beloved St. John’s. We continue to pray for all who have lost loved ones, and for our health care workers and others on the front lines of the fight against this vicious illness.
Over the past several months, Dr. Gempesaw has led St. John’s response to COVID-19, first and foremost ensuring the health and safety of our students, faculty, administrators, and staff. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our entire University community, this past semester St. John’s accomplished an unprecedented transition to online teaching and learning with a remote workforce while always remaining dedicated to the success of every student.
As we undertake the search for St. John’s 18th President, we are committed to ensuring a seamless transition to new leadership for the University that will continue to effectively navigate these challenging times, sustain our progress and ensure a strong future. We are especially fortunate to have in place such a strong senior leadership team, whose dedication to the University’s mission is unwavering. Details about the search process, which will be national in scope and include outreach to faculty, students, employees, and alumni, will be announced in the very near future.
The University is now in the planning stages for a safe return to on-campus activities, which we hope to make later this year, in accordance with public health and government guidelines. St. John’s has taken important steps to ensure much-needed support for our new and returning students, including providing significant financial and academic resources. During Dr. Gempesaw’s leadership, last year approximately $275 million in institutional aid was awarded to help students continue their studies at St. John’s, and we plan to allocate additional, one-time, need-based COVID-19 related funding for students. Our alumni and other benefactors continue to show their love for the University through their generosity, particularly in support of the Partners for Student Success scholarship initiative.
Since Dr. Gempesaw became President in 2014, the University’s commitment to fiscal responsibility has been both a guiding principle and a top priority. Consistent with that commitment, during his tenure the University has carefully applied its resources and controlled costs. To that end, administrative efforts continue to further respond to budget challenges and to mitigate the economic disruption resulting from the pandemic. These are challenging times for higher education, and I know that internal budget decisions affect all of you. On behalf of the entire Board of Trustees, I wish to express our deep appreciation for your understanding and your shared sacrifice. The weeks and months to come will not be easy. With you, we will work to assure the University’s financial strength, protect our students, faculty, administrators, and staff, and carry out our mission of service.
Our University has a 150-year history of overcoming obstacles and emerging from them stronger on the other side. We are guided by an unwavering commitment to our Catholic and Vincentian mission. As we confront the pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color, each one of us is also called to confront the unacceptable reality of racism and act against all forms of bigotry. St. John’s will always stand, and work, with those who seek justice.
In normal times, a University announcement about the retirement of its president would cite the institution’s achievements under the president’s leadership. I recognize that these are not normal times, so we will defer highlighting the detailed accomplishments during Dr. Gempesaw’s tenure—in such areas as improved academic excellence, extensive capital improvements, record high graduation rates and historic donations from generous donors. We will take the opportunity at the appropriate time to express our gratitude to Dr. Gempesaw for his exemplary achievements as our 17th President. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I extend my deepest appreciation to Dr. Gempesaw and his wife, Clavel, for all they do, and have done for St. John’s, and to all the members of the St. John’s University community for your commitment and support. You have our gratitude.
—William J. JanetschekChair of the Board of Trustees