The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Rev. Brian J. Shanley O.P. announced as President Gempesaw’s successor

Shanley set to begin his term at the start of spring semester
Photo Courtesy/ Providence College

Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., is the University’s president-elect, ending a nearly six-month search. Shanley will succeed President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, who announced earlier this year that he will retire in June 2021. The announcement was released in an internal communication to the University community this morning, Nov. 24. Shanley’s election comes at the tail end of an unconventional semester, as the University adapts to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Elected unanimously, Shanley won approval by the University’s 18-member election committee, and his term will begin on Feb. 1, 2021. Shanley comes to St. John’s following a 15-year presidency at Providence College in Rhode Island. Shanley served as the college’s president from 2005-2020, the longest serving president in its history. 

“I am honored and delighted to be elected by the Board of Trustees to serve the St. John’s community as President of the University,” said Rev. Shanley in the email. “I have long admired St. John’s commitment to the founding mission set forth by the Vincentian community to provide a Catholic education for first generation students in a diverse and inclusive environment. I look forward to leading our community to remain committed to that mission amidst the unique challenges of the current times.”

According to the University’s announcement, Shanley was credited with improving student services and campus facilities with four new academic buildings and seven athletic facilities, as well as hiring new faculty, diversifying the student body and strengthening Providence College’s national profile during his 15-year tenure. In his final year as the College’s president, the college was ranked No. 1 for its focus on undergraduate teachings in the Regional Universities North, according to the U.S. News & World Report.

The Board of Trustees at Providence College recommended that Shanley be given a fourth 5-year term back in 2019, but the college’s provincial said he would not be eligible to return, despite approval from the Board of Trustees, according to Providence College’s student newspaper, The Cowl.

According to the Providence College website, “no president in the 100-year history of Providence College has impacted this Catholic and Dominican institution so deeply as [Shanley]. While his time as the College’s 12th and longest-serving president ended on June 30, 2020, his decisions, actions, and leadership during the past 15 years are sewn forever into its fabric.”

Shanley will begin his tenure in February, marking the end of President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw’s seven-year tenure. 

On June 10 of this year, Gempesaw announced that he would be retiring in June 2021. Gempesaw began his term in 2014, making history as the University’s first layperson to hold the role in the University’s then 144-year history. 

Gempesaw claimed four major priorities for his presidency: “Improving recruitment, retention, graduation and career placement rates; hiring outstanding faculty, administrators and staff; enhancing the teaching and learning environment; and expanding domestic and global partnerships.”

The University’s announcement describes several notable statistics from Gempesaw’s tenure, including a “record total enrollment” of 14,499 undergraduate students in 2019, the highest four-year graduation rates in 30 years for the 2019 and 2020 graduating classes, a career placement rate of 94% according to student surveys and $275 million in financial aid given to students in the 2019-20 academic year. 

“I strongly believe that it is the right time for new leadership at St. John’s,” Gempesaw told the Torch back in June. 


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About the Contributor
Alicia Venter, Editor-in-Chief
Alicia is a senior Journalism major with a minor in English. She joined the Torch during her freshman year as Assistant News Editor and later became News Editor. In her last year, she is now serving as the Editor-in-Chief. She is excited to expand the Torch’s online presence through the Torch’s newsletter and other digital platforms. She is a native Kentuckian and loves painting, blaring music too loud and strong coffee! You can reach Alicia at [email protected].

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