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St. John’s elects 17th President, Conrado M. Gempesaw

New President first layperson, first Asian-American elected to be President of the University

St. John’s elects 17th President, Conrado M. Gempesaw

Conrado M. Gempesaw, the 17th President of St. John's. Photo: Courtesy of Marketing

Last week, the St. John’s Presidential Search Committee and Board of Trustees announced that Conrado M. Gempesaw, Ph.D., will be the 17th president of the University.

He is the first layperson to be appointed to this role, which has traditionally been filled by Vincentian priests. Gempesaw is also of Filipino descent, which makes him the first Asian-American president of St. John’s, according to The New York Post.

Gempesaw will begin his tenure July 1.

Gempesaw will succeed Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., who will step down at the end of this academic year. Gempesaw currently serves as the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, according to the announcement.

The hiring of a layperson, which is the result of a six-month nationwide search, marks a significant step for the University.

“It’s kind of surprising he’s not a priest,” junior Kaitlyn Erikson said of Gempesaw’s appointment.

During his time as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Miami University, Gempesaw led the development of new academic initiatives to enhance retention and graduation rates. He also focused on increasing international enrollment and global partnerships, according to the announcement.

Gempesaw has almost three decades of academic experience. His background is in agriculture and economics. Before joining Miami University, Gempesaw served as dean and provost of several different departments at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Rene Parmar, chair of the department of administrative and instructional leadership in the School of Education, sat in on a meeting with other department chairs, which Gempesaw attended during his visit to St. John’s last week.

Parmar said that Gempesaw “sees himself bringing his recruitment skills with him to St. John’s.” Parmar also said that he had success in student recruitment and enrollment at Miami University.

Gempesaw and his wife, Dr. Clavel Albay Gempesaw, were visiting St. John’s on Thursday when his appointment was announced. According to a press release from the Office of Marketing and Communications, Gempesaw met with current president Rev. Levesque before touring campus and speaking with faculty chairs and senior administrators.

“I am honored to have been selected as St. John’s new president and pleased that Clavel and I had the opportunity to be here to begin introducing ourselves to the community,” Gempesaw was quoted as saying in the press release.

“It was wonderful to have the chance to meet a number of students today, many of whom share my background as a first-generation immigrant student,” said Gempesaw, who is from the Philippines. “I was also very impressed with the commitment of the faculty, deans and administrators to advance academic excellence at St. John’s, while staying true to the institution’s Vincentian heritage, both of which I believe are critical to the University’s continuing success.”

Parmar said that she thinks Gempesaw will have a positive influence on St. John’s. “He shows a commitment to the mission of St. John’s and also engages in the Catholic Church as a leader,” she said.

“While I am deeply honored to be appointed as the first lay president of one of the nation’s largest Catholic universities, I feel intense sadness about leaving Miami and those with whom I have had the privilege of working during my term as provost,” Gempesaw said in an email to the faculty at Miami, according to an article in The Miami Student, the student newspaper of Miami University.

Students expressed excitement at the news that the next president is a minority.

Junior Ashley Germain said that Gempesaw’s appointment will help to allow and accept more diversity on campus. “Students need their voices heard more, especially those of color,” said Germain.

The Gempesaws are members of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oxford, Ohio.

While still at the University of Delaware, Gempesaw served on the St. Thomas More Oratory Advisory Council and the Diocese of Wilmington Catholic Youth Ministry’s (CYM) Athletic Committee. He was also a CYM basketball referee, the announcement said.

In a press release, Martha K. Hirst, executive vice president, chief operating officer and treasurer of the University, said, “Dr. Gempesaw is keenly aware of the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for St. John’s. He has conveyed great eagerness and enthusiasm for building on the wonderful legacy of the University as its next president. We are very much looking forward to working together starting in July.”

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