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A Message to the SLU Community


Dear members of the SLU community,

On March 21, 2014, I was introduced to you as SLU’s 33rd president. It was one of the most thrilling and humbling days of my life.

Today, on the tenth anniversary of that joyful day, I write to share with you that I will step down from the presidency at the end of June 2025.

As I reflect upon the past decade, I am amazed at all we have endured and achieved together in St. Louis and in Madrid. We faced moments that tested us and revealed what defines this Jesuit university community.

Just three months into my presidency, we responded to calls for racial justice by listening to our values and to one another, engaging in dialogue that led to the 2014 Clocktower Accords. This document, and the spirit in which it was composed, led to numerous initiatives to foster belonging and justice on our campus and beyond.  

Soon after, we addressed challenges at SLU Hospital by embarking on a transformative new partnership with SSM Health. Because of this partnership rooted in shared values, the new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital opened its doors in September 2020. This grand opening marked a historic milestone in our ongoing efforts to expand access to cutting edge patient care as we educate the next generation of compassionate clinicians.

In that same fall of 2020, we brought the university community back to campus despite the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. We effectively managed our community’s health, learning in person without interruption for the remainder of the pandemic. We also distributed more than 20,000 vaccine doses to the campus and region, and entirely avoided the painful layoffs experienced across the higher education landscape.

There were many times in the last 10 years when the challenges we faced felt insurmountable. But together – grounded firmly in our values and trusting in the wisdom of this community – we found more than a way through. We created a new future for Saint Louis University.

We have become a more diverse and more international community. Our research profile has grown beyond what we could have imagined. We have broken every institutional fundraising and enrollment record. We built state-of-the art campus facilities, and we are leading the dramatic transformation of Midtown St. Louis.

As an organization we are more data driven, transparent, and collaborative. And our board of trustees is more engaged, diverse, and impactful. 

Through it all we have never strayed from our core focus: preparing our students to become the compassionate, ethical leaders our alumni are known to be. We have built on the Jesuit tradition of rigorous education and care for the whole person, advancing innovation in academic programs and investing in University-wide efforts to support student well-being.

These achievements are your achievements. They are the result of our shared commitment to our mission, our vision, and our Ignatian way of proceeding.

The decision to leave this role was a difficult one. It was made over many months in conversation with Fran and in consultation with the leadership of SLU’s Board of Trustees, particularly my partner for the past decade, Chairman of the Board Joe Conran.

There is so much I will miss about this magnificent job. But just as I knew ten years ago that SLU would be my home, I know that it is time for a new leader to take the first step into a new era.

Between now and June 2025, there will be a robust national search for my successor and some period of transition. At the conclusion of my tenure as president, I plan to take a sabbatical. Then I hope to continue teaching, writing, and doing what I am asked to contribute to the success of the next leader of this remarkable university. 

There has not been a single day in my presidency when I did not thank God for the joy and honor of working for and with all of you – smart, compassionate, and dedicated Jesuits, faculty, staff, students, trustees, alumni, donors, and partners.

From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of Fran and my family, I thank you for the strong support and generous goodwill you have consistently shown us since March of 2014.  

May God bless you and Saint Louis University.

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.