Saint Louis University

Fred Pestello, Ph.D.
SLU President Fred Pestello, Ph.D., in his new office. Photo by Michelle Peltier

Today, Fred Pestello, Ph.D., officially begins his historic tenure as Saint Louis University's 33rd president. He is the first permanent lay leader of the nearly 200-year-old Jesuit institution.

"I have admired Saint Louis University and its success for many years," Pestello said. "I am genuinely thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to lead this premier Jesuit research university."

Although this is his first official day in office, Pestello has been on campus several times since his introduction in March. Late last week, for example, he made a surprise visit to an Advancement Division event marking the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

"There is a great and sincere sense of community that exists here at SLU," Pestello said. "What really energizes me is being with people who are doing the work, and it's important that we recognize the people who — day in and day out — are doing the things that make this institution what it is."

While colleges and universities are charged with the transmission, generation, application and integration of knowledge, Pestello noted that SLU has a higher calling because of its Catholic, Jesuit mission.

"In terms of our students, it's about producing a graduate who is certainly going to do well, but also will do good," he said. "As president, it's my role to ensure that we continue our great teaching, research and service as we develop our students — inside and outside the classroom."

Pestello was elected SLU's president by the University's Board of Trustees on March 20, following a national search. Prior to the launch of the search, open fora and meetings were held so that members of the SLU community could offer their thoughts on the qualities the next president should possess.

One of the members of the presidential search committee, Teri Murray, Ph.D., R.N., dean of SLU's School of Nursing, said she was impressed with Pestello's track record of bringing a campus community together.

"He has shown that he can unify people of varying opinions for a common purpose, a common cause," Murray said. "He's also a solid academician who has years of experience of raising the academic bar. I believe he can bring us to a new place in terms of our pursuit of excellence at SLU."

Jane Willman Turner, M.D., Ph.D., president of the Faculty Senate and an associate professor of pathology, also served on the presidential search committee. During interviews with the group, she was struck by Pestello's ability to listen.

"It's clear that he really values communication," Turner said. "He's also been a member of the academy for a long time. He has the background, training and experience that provide him with a great understanding of the academic mission and a true appreciation for shared governance."

Prior to becoming SLU's president, Pestello was the president of Le Moyne College, a comprehensive Jesuit liberal arts institution in Syracuse, New York, for six years. He also was the college's first lay president. Before his time at Le Moyne, Pestello spent nearly 25 years as a faculty member and provost at the University of Dayton, a Catholic, Marianist research institution in Ohio. A Roman Catholic, Pestello is a graduate of John Carroll University, a Jesuit institution in Cleveland.

Pestello and his wife, Frances Pestello, Ph.D., are living in the city's Central West End in a home that the University recently purchased as a presidential residence. The home, which is located less than three miles from the campus, will be used to host donors, alumni, local dignitaries and members of the SLU community for dinners and other University events.

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