ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., has been named the 33rd president of Saint Louis University. The University’s Board of Trustees elected Dr. Pestello during a special meeting Thursday night. He is the first permanent lay president in SLU’s 196-year history.
“I am humbled and honored to follow in the footsteps of the Jesuit presidents who have come before me, and I am deeply committed to carrying on the mission they have fostered so well,” Dr. Pestello said. “I have been watching Saint Louis University’s progress for years, and I am thrilled for this opportunity to lead an institution that I admire and respect so much.”
Dr. Pestello, a Roman Catholic, is currently the president of Le Moyne College, a comprehensive Jesuit liberal arts institution in Syracuse, N.Y. At the time of his appointment in 2008, he became Le Moyne’s first permanent lay president.
Prior to becoming Le Moyne’s president, Dr. Pestello spent nearly 25 years as a faculty member and provost at the University of Dayton, a Catholic, Marianist research institution in Ohio. He also is a graduate of John Carroll University, a Jesuit institution in Cleveland.
“Dr. Pestello stood out among an outstanding pool of candidates, and we are very excited for what the future holds for Saint Louis University under his leadership,” said J. Joe Adorjan, chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees. “Dr. Pestello has spent his entire career in Catholic higher education, and he understands and embraces SLU’s Jesuit mission.”
Dr. Pestello’s first major undertaking at Le Moyne was a campus-wide initiative called “OneLeMoyne.” More than 100 faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders participated in the collaborative and inclusive effort, which led to a new vision statement and strategic plan for the college.
Under Dr. Pestello’s leadership, Le Moyne has enrolled record numbers of students, nearly tripled the size of its endowment and pursued a number of campus improvement projects. A capital campaign, which had started shortly before his arrival, closed at nearly twice its original goal. On the academic side, the college established a new business school and revised its core curriculum. Le Moyne’s national rankings also rose.
During his tenure as president, one of Dr. Pestello’s main priorities has been to expand the work the college does to advance its mission. He meets regularly with the Jesuit community on campus and has developed a strong working relationship with Catholic religious leaders in Syracuse.
“The Jesuits of the Missouri Province are very happy to welcome Fred Pestello to Saint Louis University,” said Missouri Provincial Douglas W. Marcouiller, S.J. “Father Adolfo Nicolas, the Jesuit superior general, recently urged the presidents and board chairs of all Jesuit universities to continue to develop spiritual leadership. That is precisely what Dr. Pestello has done during the past six years as president at Le Moyne. He is deeply committed to SLU’s Catholic and Jesuit mission, and we look forward to working with him.”
Dr. Pestello caused a stir among Le Moyne students in the fall of 2013 when his office underwent a $374,000 renovation as part of a larger $1.3 million renovation to the school’s administrative wing. Students said the lavish 2,292-square-foot office suite was at odds with the school’s Jesuit values.
Dr. Pestello’s career in higher education began in 1984 at the University of Dayton — the largest private university in Ohio — where he served as a professor of sociology, chairman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. As a faculty member, he was thrice elected vice president of Dayton’s academic senate, the highest position a member of the faculty could hold at the time.
In 2001, Dr. Pestello was appointed Dayton’s provost and senior vice president for educational affairs. In that role, he was noted for his emphasis on faculty development and for making academic excellence the centerpiece of the school’s educational processes. He also led a collective effort to draft a new vision statement that spawned a new strategic plan for the institution.
“Dr. Pestello has a proven track record of success, and his list of accomplishments in higher education is long and impressive,” Chairman Adorjan said. “He is a collaborative and inclusive leader, and I am absolutely confident that he will be a great president for Saint Louis University.”
Born and raised in Cleveland, Dr. Pestello has three degrees in sociology. He earned his bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University in 1974, his master’s degree from the University of Akron in 1981, and his doctoral degree through a joint program of the University of Akron and Kent State University in 1985.
Saint Louis University’s national search for a new president began last September and was led by a committee whose members included trustees, a Jesuit, the president of the Faculty Senate and the president of the Student Government Association, among others. Dr. Pestello was the search committee’s unanimous first choice.
Dr. Pestello officially assumes SLU’s presidency on July 1. Until then, longtime SLU administrator William R. Kauffman will continue to serve as interim president, a position he has held since the retirement of President Emeritus Lawrence Biondi, S.J., in September 2013.
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