SLU’s Father Biondi announces resignation

Father Lawrence Biondi, president of St. Louis University, will resign after 25 years in the position amidst ongoing controversy over his leadership from faculty and students.

The decision follows widespread concern about Biondi’s management, which many say has impeded the school’s growth in rankings and to provide a supportive environment for students and faculty.

In a university statement quoted by the school’s student newspaper, Biondi said that his choice to leave the position was made with the Board of Trustees’ approval.

“I have decided it is time for a transition in leadership for Saint Louis University — time for me to move on to the next phase of my life,” Biondi said in the statement.

The announcement, which Biondi made at a Saturday night gala for members of the school’s Board of Trustees, comes at the heels of months of disapproval over the school’s governance. In a 35-2 vote last October, SLU’s faculty senate made a vote of no confidence in the school’s president, as the Father found himself in a heated controversy afar backing a plan for SLU to rework or get rid of tenure.

The tension has only escalated in recent weeks.

In a report the faculty senate released April 24, a task force responsible for identifying issues with the school’s financial and academic management described the need for a change in university leadership.

“Increasing student debt, a decline in research funding, the need to develop new technologies suited to the information age, and the need to attract and retain talented faculty and students require a different type of leader,” the report read. “The ‘my way or the highway’ management style to which Fr. Biondi admits may have been useful for bringing together a campus that was physically fractured, although it was never without cost to the shared governance valued by faculty. In the current environment, however, that management style—which…assumes that employees cannot be trusted to provide meaningful input to the organization–is eroding the academic mission and the Jesuit character of the integrated university Fr. Biondi built….”

After Father Biondi and the Board of Trustees failed to meet with faculty last week, students and faculty joined in protest over the lack of communication with the school’s administration.

A Facebook group named “SLU Students for No Confidence” had more than 1,300 likes as of Saturday night, when his resignation was announced.

  • clay franken

    Leadership Changes at Saint Louis University Announced

    ST. LOUIS — On Saturday, May 4, Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., told the University’s Board of Trustees of his intention to retire from his position and to work with the Board on the search process for a new president, which will begin in the fall.

    At a gala Saturday night celebrating his 25 years of leadership, Father Biondi announced his intentions to a crowd of more than 800 alumni, supporters and community leaders. The event in Chaifetz Arena received approximately $1.4 million in gifts and sponsorships for student scholarships and academic initiatives.

    “Just as I helped lead SLU’s transformation when I arrived here more than 25 years ago, I know it is now time for the next transformation to begin,” Father Biondi said. “And, so, with the blessing of our Board of Trustees, I have decided it is time for a transition in leadership for Saint Louis University — time for me to move on to the next phase of my life. This fall, the Board will launch a search for my successor. I will be here as long as they need me, and will do everything I can to make the transition to our next president as smooth as possible.”

    Father Biondi continued: “As I approach my 75th birthday, I know I am ready for new challenges — challenges that might include heeding the call of our General Superior in Rome, Father Nicolas, who has asked Jesuits around the world to focus on care for the poor, the marginalized, the uneducated and immigrants. Right now, I remain open to how God is calling me to serve others in ways, yet to be discerned.”

    At its meeting Saturday morning, the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees elected J. Joe Adorjan to serve as chairman of the SLU Board. Adorjan succeeds Thomas H. Brouster, Sr., who in April announced his plans to step down as chairman. The Board also elected trustee Patrick J. Sly as vice chairman.

    Adorjan has been a trustee at Saint Louis University for 25 years. He has served two previous terms as Board chairman (1991-1997 and 1999- 2005) and most recently served on the Board’s Executive Committee and chaired the Clinical Affairs Committee. Adorjan is a two-time graduate of SLU, having received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the University. He is the chairman of Adven Capital Partners in Clayton, Mo.

    Sly joined the SLU Board of Trustees in 2003, and is currently a member of the Board’s Executive Committee and chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board. Also a SLU graduate, Sly received his MBA from the University. He is the executive vice president of Emerson and business leader of Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions. He also oversees the Emerson Charitable Trust, as well as the company’s community giving activities.

    Adorjan said Saturday that he was honored to have been elected to the position of Board chairman by his fellow trustees.

    “I am committed to working with Father Biondi and all University stakeholders to continue to advance this great institution,” Adorjan said. “With Pat Sly as vice chairman, I am very confident that we have a strong leadership team in place to advise Father Biondi and the Board of Trustees as we move forward.”

    Details about transition plans and search processes will be communicated to the University community in the weeks ahead. Neither the University nor the Board of Trustees will have additional comment at this time.

    About Father Biondi

    Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., has led SLU through a remarkable era of progress and achievement since his inauguration in 1987. He is one of the longest serving presidents at an American Jesuit college or university.

    In addition to modernizing the campus and helping revitalize the surrounding Midtown neighborhood, Father Biondi has committed vast University resources to academics, student scholarships and financial aid, faculty research, and state-of-the-art technology.

    During his tenure, he has focused on recruiting the finest faculty and students, increasing the University’s academic standards and achievements, and developing the University as a major research center.

    Widely considered one of the most influential people in the region, Father Biondi has earned numerous honors, including the St. Louis Award (2001), the Leon R. Strauss Urban Pioneer Award (2001), the St. Louis Citizen of the Year Award (2005) and the John D. Levy Human Relations Award (2011). In 1999, readers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch named him as one of St. Louis’ “Citizens of the Century.”

    Highlights of Father Biondi’s tenure include:
    -The successful completion of fundraising and capital campaigns totaling more than $785 million.

    -The investment of an estimated $850 million in improvements, enhancements and expansions.

    -An increase in the size of SLU’s Midtown campus from 113 acres with 62 buildings to 268 acres with 131 buildings.

    -Completion of the $86 million Edward A. Doisy Research Center in 2007. The state-of-the-art, LEED-certified facility offers SLU’s world-class researchers a world-class home.

    -Construction of the $82 million on-campus Chaifetz Arena in 2008. The 10,600-seat, multipurpose facility has dramatically enhanced the student experience and is home to SLU’s basketball teams.

    -Completion of the Scott Law Center in downtown St. Louis, the Center for Global Citizenship, the Health Sciences Education Union, Medical Center Stadium, Hotel Ignacio, John and Lucy Cook Hall, McDonnell Douglas Hall, Doisy College of Health Sciences and the Center for Advanced Dental Education, the Henry Lay Center for Arts and Education in Louisiana, Mo., as well as the renovation and expansion of Busch Student Center, among many other projects.

    -An increase of the University’s endowment from $93 million in 1987 to $970 million (as of April 15, 2013).

    -Classification of SLU as a research institution by the Carnegie Foundation.

    -The top-100 ranking of 24 undergraduate and graduate academic programs by U.S News & World Report.

    -The increase of full-time ranked faculty from 725 to 1,390.

    -An increase in the number of endowed chairs and professorships at the University from 16 to 65, drawing and retaining the nation’s leading professors in their respective fields.

    -The decrease of the student-faculty ratio to 12-to-1 and reduction of the average class size to 24.4 students.

    -The establishment of new academic, service, leadership and diversity scholarships. In 2012, SLU provided a record $339 million in aid to students.

    -An increase in the total number of students from 9,869 to 13,981.

    -An increase of the average ACT score of entering freshmen from 22.7 in 1987 to 27.2 in 2012.

    -Recognition as a character-building college by The Templeton Guide: Colleges That Encourage Character Development.

    -The establishment of the Center for World Health and Medicine, an innovative initiative dedicated to addressing critical health concerns in developing nations.

    -The launch of the first Center for Sustainability at a Jesuit university.

    -The expansion and enhancement of Saint Louis University’s Madrid campus as the first foreign university to be recognized officially by Spain’s Ministry of Higher Education.