St. Louis University President Father Lawrence Biondi Announces Plan to Step Down

"I know it is now time for the next transformation to begin," St. Louis University President Fr. Lawrence Biondi has said, according to a university press release. According to the Post-Dispatch, St. Louis University President Fr. Lawrence Biondi announced tonight his intention to step down from the post he's held for 25 years. The announcement came at a gala celebrating his quarter century of service. Biondi has recently come under accelerating criticism for his handling of academic affairs at the university. This past August, nextSTL was first report the resignation of SLU Law School Dean Annette Clark. She didn't go quietly, making public her grievences in a letter that pulled no punches. Faculty and students have held no-confidence votes in Biondi's leadership in recent months. According to St. Louis Public Radio, a recent campus survey found near 70 percent of faculty wanted Biondi to step down.

Biondi has also drawn the ire of an increasing number of preservationists in St. Louis with his push to demolish numerous buildings without plans to replace them. The most public example has been the Pevely Dairy complex. This site first reported that SLU would pass on the Pevely site for its claimed ambulatory care center. In order to receive city approval for demolition, Biondi had testified that the school was ready to break ground and financing was in place. Seventeenth Ward Alderman later stated that he was led to believe that development was imminent more than a year ago.

{President Biondi explains transition planning beginning at 14:00}

The university released the following statement:

Leadership Changes at Saint Louis University Announced
Saint Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., to Retire After 25-Year Tenure
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. 

{Biondi received approval to demolish the Pevely Dairly site except for the corner building}

Chouteau near 39th Street
{the corner Pevely building is the only structure remaining}

SLU Law before_after_Chestnut
{the new SLU Law building downtown St. Louis, prior to renovation and as envisioned}

SLU law
{SLU Law under construction}

Fr. Biondi bio from the SLU website:

Born Dec. 15, 1938, in Chicago, Father Biondi attended Catholic elementary and secondary schools before entering the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus in 1957. He was ordained as a priest in 1970.

Father Biondi holds six degrees. His master's degree in linguistics (1966) and his doctorate in sociolinguistics (1975) were conferred by Georgetown University. He has three degrees from Loyola University Chicago and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago. In addition, Father Biondi has pursued non-degree language studies in French, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish. He has published four books and holds a certificate from Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management. Before coming to Saint Louis University, Father Biondi was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Chicago.

Widely considered one of the most influential people in the region, Father Biondi was named St. Louis' "Citizen of the Year" in 2005 by past recipients of the award sponsored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Readers of the newspaper also tapped him as one of St. Louis' "Citizens of the Century" in 1999.

In 2006, the St. Louis Business Journal honored him as one of only 10 "legends" — individuals "who have gone beyond being influential to become legends in our region and beyond." And, in 2011, Father Biondi earned the John D. Levy Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) of St. Louis, which honors leaders who "have applied their leadership, creativity and commitment to service to make St. Louis a better place." In 2012, a local publication, the Ladue News, named him one of the year's "Top-10 Most Dynamic People in St. Louis."