President Gempesaw Announces Retirement

Conrado Bobby Gempesaw
June 10, 2020

St. John’s University President, Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., announced today that he will be retiring at the end of his term in June 2021, concluding a 36-year career in academia. 

Appointed in 2014, Dr. Gempesaw has led one of the nation’s largest, private and Catholic universities in the United States during a time of unprecedented change and challenge in higher education. As the first lay President in the history of St. John’s, Dr. Gempesaw—an immigrant from the Philippines—was well-positioned to lead an institution with a founding and enduring Vincentian mission to serve immigrants, their children, and the broader community.

“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,” stated Dr. Gempesaw.

From the outset of his presidency, Dr. Gempesaw enlisted the participation of representatives from various sectors of the University community in developing four strategic priorities which focused on ensuring student success by improving recruitment, retention, graduation and career placement rates; hiring outstanding faculty, administrators and staff; enhancing the teaching and learning environment; and expanding domestic and global partnerships.

“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,” stated William J. Janetschek, Chair of the Board of Trustees. 

“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. Most recently he clearly reaffirmed the Catholic and Vincentian values of St. John’s condemning all forms of racism, violence, intolerance, hate and bigotry.Since becoming President in 2014, Dr. Gempesaw has led the University’s unwavering commitment to student success, academic excellence, and living out its mission."

With dedicated faculty, administrators, and staff, and the guidance of the Board of Trustees and Board of Governors, St. John’s has seen impressive growth since 2014. After five years of steady growth in the size of the incoming first-year class, a record total enrollment was achieved in 2019. First-year retention rates have increased over the past five years. The six-year graduation rates for the May 2019 and May 2020 graduating classes are the highest in the last fifteen years; the four-year graduation rates for the May 2019 and May 2020 graduating classes are the highest in the last thirty years. Based on data from responses to student surveys, the career placement rate of graduates has averaged 94% during the past four years. To support access to affordable education, St. John’s provided close to $275 million in direct financial aid to students during the 2019-20 academic year, which is among the largest amounts of institutional aid provided by any private college or university in the country.

During Dr. Gempesaw’s tenure as president, the University’s commitment to fiscal responsibility has been paramount. The University instituted measures to prioritize expenditures and allocate its resources carefully to control the rising cost of education. Without incurring additional debt, substantial capital improvements and deferred maintenance projects were undertaken to enhance the teaching and learning environment for faculty and students. In addition, more than 90% of all general-purpose classrooms along with laboratories have been upgraded with technology tools designed to improve learning outcomes and ensure student success. Private gifts to the University have increased substantially, with a record amount of funds raised in the last three years.

As St. John’s undertakes the search for its 18thPresident, the University is committed to ensuring a seamless transition to new leadership that will continue to effectively navigate these challenging times, sustain its progress and ensure a strong future. 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.