Justin Wingerter, Allison Blood

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Saint Louis University president Rev. Lawrence Biondi has announced his resignation.

Biondi made the announcement at a fundraising gala in his honor Saturday night. The gala was held to honor Biondi’s 25th anniversary as the head of SLU and roughly 800 people were in attendance, according to university officials.

“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,” Biondi said, according to a statement. “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.

“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,” he added. “Right now, I remain open to how God is calling me to serve others in ways, yet to be discerned.

In an official statement university officials confirmed the retirement announcement. “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.”

Among those celebrating the announcement were members of SLU Students for No Confidence, a group that had pushed for Biondi’s ouster in the past year.

“We heard it from one person at our table, we were at Humphrey’s after the gala, and no one believed him,” SLU Students for No Confidence spokeswoman Liz SLURamsey said. “It took us hearing it from probably ten different people before we believed it.”

“I mean, he has done great things for the university,” Ramsey explained. “I respect him so much but the fact that he realizes he needs to move on is such a thrilling thing for us.”

Ramsey stated adamantly that her group will remain involved in the process to choose a new president.

“The next step is as important as the last step has been. We are so involved, we want to be part of the process and our page will stay active because we want to have input, we want to say who the new leader is,” she said.

Also among the cheering crowd at Humphrey’s was political science professor Matthew Hall who says he “felt optimism for the future of Saint Louis University” upon hearing the news Saturday night.

“This isn’t about disrespecting Father Biondi,” he said. “Father Biondi has undoubtedly contributed positive things to this university and we assume, without doubt, that he has the best interest of the university in mind. We simply disagree about what those interests are.”

Rev. Biondi has faced a rash of criticism from both students and faculty amid several “no confidence” votes. The most public of these incidences came last August when SLU Law Dean Annette Clark wrote a scathing letter of resignation to Biondi and Vice President Dr. Manoj Patankar.

“I no longer have confidence in either of your abilities to lead this institution or in your commitment to the well-being of the School of Law,” Clark wrote. She went on to write “it is the ultimate irony that a Jesuit university would operate so far outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity.”

Clark’s replacement, Belleville attorney Thomas Keefe Jr., a 1978 alum of the law school and long-time supporter of the department, resigned in March of this year.

In December, 2012 it was revealed that Saint Louis University had brought in public relations officials from Fleishman-Hillard to handle any flack stemming from the “no confidence” votes.

“It has been one continuing crisis after another,” Steve Harris, President of the SLU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said at the time.

As for Biondi’s critics celebrating at Humphrey’s Saturday night, the next step was already in mind.

“It’s about building a better future for Saint Louis University and that future is going to begin tonight,” Hall said.

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