St. John’s University appoints Rev. Brian J. Shanley as new president

Photo courtesy of St. John’s University

St. John’s University has appointed Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., as its 18th president.

The Vincentian university’s board of trustees announced they came to the decision unanimously elected Fr. Shanley as the next president, succeeding current President Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, who announced his retirement this summer after becoming the first layperson in the university’s 150-year history to serve as president.

“On behalf of the entire board of trustees, I am absolutely delighted to welcome Fr. Shanley to St. John’s,” said William J. Janetschek, chair of the board of trustees. “Fr. Shanley’s steadfast devotion to Catholic education and to student success were apparent from our very first conversations with him. He has a demonstrated record of achievement as president of Providence College, and we believe that he is the ideal candidate to serve as our beloved university’s 18th president. We look forward to, and will be grateful for, Fr. Shanley’s visionary leadership in the years ahead.”

The selection of Fr. Shanley follows an extensive national search, overseen by committee of 18 individuals, led by Janetschek, who represent a cross-section of St. John’s University’s constituencies, including faculty, students, administrators, as well as current and emeriti members of the board of trustees. The university was also aided in the search by WittKieffer, one of the nation’s leading higher education consulting firms.

Rev. Shanley will take the reins beginning on Feb. 1, 2021.

“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 Fr. Shanley. “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.”

Prior to this role, Fr. Shanley was the 12th and longest-serving president in Providence College’s history, from 2005 until June 2020. While at Providence College, he was credited with making substantial improvements to campus facilities and student services, hiring large numbers of new faculty, diversifying the student body and strengthening the college’s national profile in academics and athletics.

Fr. Shanley graduated as summa cum laude from Providence College in 1980, with a degree in history. He was later ordained to the priesthood in 1987. He completed his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Toronto, and later joined the faculty at The Catholic University of America. He subsequently spent time at the University of Notre Dame and at Emory University.

“I am thrilled for Fr. Shanley. He was such an impactful president during his 15-year tenure at Providence College, and he will long be remembered as one of the best presidents in the history of our college,” said Providence College’s current President Fr. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P. “He was an amazing colleague, friend and mentor to me. I know that he still had more to offer, and I have no doubt that he will do a wonderful job at St. John’s University. On behalf of the entire Providence College community, I wish him the very best and every success in this new endeavor.”

Founded in 1870, St. John’s University’s first campus was located in Brooklyn, but later moved to Queens in the 1950s. Their main campus is now located at 8000 Utopia Parkway in Jamaica. The university also has locations in Staten Island, Manhattan and Hauppauge; as well as internationally in Rome, Italy, Paris, France and Limerick, Ireland.

The University currently has 1,400 full-time and part-time faculty, approximately 15,700 undergraduate students, and 4,450 graduate students who come from 45 states and 121 countries.

Very Rev. Stephen M. Grozio, C.M., provincial vice chair of the St. John’s University’s board of trustees and Provincial Superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians), said Fr. Shanley is committed to the university’s mission.

“Fr. Shanley is deeply committed to the Vincentian mission of St. John’s – to provide an excellent education to all people, especially those most in need – and to the university’s social justice, antiracism, diversity, equity and inclusion efforts,” said Fr. Grozio. “My confreres and I welcome Fr. Shanley to the St. John’s community, and we look forward to working with him far into the future.”

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