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Search for the Next Vice President and General Counsel

March 31, 2021 

Dear members of the Saint Louis University community, 

In December, I wrote to inform you that Bill Kauffman, our longest-serving senior executive, including 10 months as Interim President, will retire from his role as Vice President and General Counsel on June 30 of this year. Today, I write to announce the search for Bill’s successor. 

I have had numerous conversations in recent weeks with University leaders, members of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (FSEC) among them, about the character, skills and experience required for this critical leadership position. After assessing that input, I have decided to conduct an internal search for the next Vice President and General Counsel. There are several reasons to pursue this course, among them: 

While we have, and will continue to do national searches for senior-level administrative and academic positions, it is evident we have a number of highly qualified attorneys on campus in the Office of General Counsel (OGC), at the Law School and at SLUCare and in other University units who could be considered. Such availability of talent demonstrates that we have the depth of a sound organization, intent on developing our University professionals — and promoting them. We build morale and reduce employee turnover among our staff and faculty whenever we provide such opportunities. 

Now and for the foreseeable future, substantial and important work will involve personnel in the OGC. Familiarity with this work, particularly with the large and complex partnership with SSM Health, is essential to a smooth transition. SSM Health and SLU are currently negotiating a better alignment of our operations and reimagining a stronger common strategy for our future. The OGC is deeply involved in this collaborative and consequential endeavor. 

Faculty, staff and students have a critical role to play in an internal search, just as they would in a national search. Faculty, staff and students will have important insights regarding the character and skills needed to lead the OGC and work alongside other University constituencies. 

It makes no financial sense to bear the substantial costs of a national search, including search firm fees and candidate travel and entertainment expenses, when we have potentially strong internal candidates. We are all aware of the budget challenges SLU and other institutions of higher education are tackling. It is critical that we use our financial resources in the most efficient manner possible. Let’s invest those monies in our students, faculty and staff. 

Should an internal search fail to yield an acceptable candidate, we will immediately pivot and begin a national search. 

Although the Faculty Manual states that “ordinarily” a national search will be carried out for senior-level administrative positions, such as vice presidents, I do not believe a national search is required in this instance. In conversation with Faculty Senate President Ruth Evans, members of the FSEC and Provost Mike Lewis, we determined that this position does not require a national search at this time, but that an internal search with the opportunity for faculty to provide input is appropriate. 

I plan to consult with the FSEC, the Staff Advisory Committee and others on potential search committee members. Once the committee is constituted, the committee chair will reach out to you to solicit nominations for the position. 

I expect the process will be concluded by the end of this fiscal year. 

Thank you in advance for your support of this hire and keep doing amazing work on behalf of our students and patients, and in the neighborhoods and communities in which we serve. 

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.