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10:15 pm
Sat May 4, 2013

Students, Faculty React To Biondi’s Retirement Announcement

Updated with reactions from students and faculty, added video May 7

James Dreas, a senior studying aerospace engineering, was hustling to get to church on Sunday morning.

He said he’s not up on all the details, but the way things went down doesn’t sit well with him.

“It’s kind of a shame he had to leave, if he didn’t want to, that is,” Dreas said.

In contrast, freshman Emily McCollester-Purlle, a dual marketing and sociology major, felt like a lot students walking across campus, and is ready for the university to move on after months of controversy.

“It was shocking but I think the majority of the university was on the side of this, happy it’s happening so we can move forward,” McCollester-Purlle said.    

The move comes after Biondi received no –confidence votes from both student and faculty groups.

“We are absolutely thrilled,” said Liz Ramsey, a spokesperson for SLU Students for No Confidence, which pushed for Biondi’s resignation. “We completely respect Father Biondi, and we’re so glad that he’s finally came to the same realization that everyone else has, that it’s time for him to move on. He’s done great things, but his time is over, and we’re absolutely thrilled he’s come to that realization, as well.”

Ramsey did say she has concerns that Biondi will be involved in the selection of the new university president, which she hopes will be transparent.   

Representatives for faculty groups that pushed for Biondi to step aside reacted with a mix of cautious optimism and respect for Biondi’s accomplishments.

Steve Harris is head of the SLU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and was active in the effort to get Biondi to relinquish his role as university president.

“It remains to be seen to what extent Father Biondi is going to continue business as normal for him during this transition period, or is going to be as this statement suggests, gracious in helping us pass to a new era,” Harris said.   

Jane Turner is the new president of the Faculty Senate, which delivered Biondi a no-confidence vote last year.  

“I think most faculty would join me in expressing appreciation to Father Biondi for his years of service to Saint Louis University,” Turner said.  “He’s created a solid foundation on which the next president and faculty can build a fine institution.” 

Turner said it's preferable that the Board of Trustees begin the search to find Biondi's replacement sooner than the fall.

She added:  "I don’t have all the information the board does, so I’m not in a position to second guess the board.  For whatever reason, the board deemed it more appropriate to have the search in the fall."

Details about the transition plan will be communicated to the University community in the weeks ahead, according to a university press release.

The release also notes that neither the University nor the Board of Trustees have additional comment at this time.

Original Story

Saint Louis University President Father Lawrence Biondi has announced that he will retire from his position.  

During a gala Saturday night celebrating his 25 years of leadership at the university, Biondi told the audience of his intention to step down.

(Biondi makes his announcement near the 13:55 mark in this video)

“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 Saint Louis University press release. “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.”

Biondi will work with the University’s Board of Trustees on the search process for a new president, which will begin in the fall.

“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,” Biondi said, according to a Saint Louis University press release issued late Saturday evening.   “Right now, I remain open to how God is calling me to serve others in ways, yet to be discerned.”

As St. Louis Pubic Radio has previous reported, Biondi has been surrounded by controversy for months, and last year the faculty issued a no-confidence vote in him as President of Saint Louis University. 

At its meeting Saturday morning, the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees elected Joe Adorjan to serve as chairman of the SLU Board. 

Follow Tim Lloyd on Twitter: @TimSLloyd