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About Dr. Fred Pestello

Dr. Fred P. Pestello became the 33rd President of Saint Louis University in 2014. He is the first lay president of Saint Louis University since its founding in 1818, and the University's third longest-serving president. He is proud to have spent 40 years in Catholic higher education. 

Achievements at Saint Louis University

Photo of Dr. Fred Pestello
Dr. Fred P. Pestello

As president, Dr. Pestello oversees one of the nation’s leading Jesuit research universities with more than 15,000 students and 4,000 employees, an annual operating budget of more than $600 million and an endowment of $1.8 billion. 

Dr. Pestello has galvanized the University community around a compelling vision: To be a global Jesuit university that is mission-focused, student and patient-centered, and research-driven — one that is working with the people of St. Louis to reimagine, transform and unify our city.

In pursuit of this vision, SLU has:

  • Broken records for total student enrollment, with 15,204 students enrolled in fall 2023. Of them, 3,183 are international students – the largest number in SLU’s history.
  • Grown enrollment at SLU-Madrid among European Union students and visiting American students, including providing a life-changing semester for many of SLU’s undergraduates.
  • Completed a comprehensive assessment and identified transformative strategies to support the holistic well-being of students across the institution.
  • Launched a new core curriculum that will prepare all SLU undergraduate students to be intellectually flexible, creative and reflective critical thinkers in the spirit of the Catholic, Jesuit tradition.
  • Completed construction on two new residence halls, a new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering building, the O’Loughlin Family Champions Center for student-athletes, and the Jesuit Center – a home for SLU’s thriving community of Jesuits, in the heart of campus.
  • Expanded SLU’s research profile, establishing the SLU Research Institute and increasing annual research expenditures to $82.7 million in 2022, an 86% increase since 2014.
  • Served as the coordinating institution of the Taylor Geospatial Institute, a landmark collaboration between eight research institutions that will make St. Louis the global center of geospatial innovation.
  • Enhanced healthcare to underserved populations in St. Louis through the compassionate care of SLU faculty physicians, COVID-19 vaccine distribution to churches and other community locations, and a recently launched mobile health unit.
  • Strengthened a historic partnership between SLU and SSM Health, which led to the construction of the new $550 million SSM Health/Saint Louis University Hospital and outpatient care center in 2020, and the successful integration of the SLUCare medical practice with SSM Health to create the region’s leading integrated health care network in 2022. 
  • Supported the Gate District West neighborhood association in leading the development of new housing on property adjacent to SLU’s campus. To date, 12 condos and 40 single-family homes – seven of them Habitat for Humanity homes – have been constructed in the neighborhood.
  • Expanded access to the transformative benefits of Jesuit education to marginalized communities through continued support of SLU’s Prison Education Program, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2023, and by partnering with Jesuit Worldwide Learning, which offers higher education to students living in refugee camps. 

In partnership with University and community leaders, Dr. Pestello has nurtured SLU’s longstanding commitment to the Jesuit mission, ensuring that SLU is home to a large and dynamic community of Jesuits, and establishing a Catholic Studies Center and the Center for Research on Global Catholicism. He also has strengthened SLU’s commitment to diversity and community engagement through investment in the division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement and the development of initiatives inspired by the 2014 Clock Tower Accords

Dr. Pestello has led SLU to become a driving force in the revitalization of Midtown St. Louis. The University joined with SSM Health to create a 353 Redevelopment Plan and the St. Louis Midtown Redevelopment Corporation (STLMRC). The STLMRC has catalyzed several completed development projects, including the City Foundry, a new Fresh Thyme Market grocery store, the Steelcote Lofts, the Element Hotel by Westin, the historic Armory, Topgolf, and more. In addition, a Target store is set to open in July, and SSM Health announced that they will build a new Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital at Chouteau and Grand. 

Belief in the University vision has taken root among benefactors as well, inspiring historic levels of giving. In 2022, Dr. Pestello led SLU’s Accelerating Excellence Campaign to its successful conclusion. The largest fundraising effort in University history, the campaign set multiple SLU records for gift totals and far exceeded its $500 million goal, ultimately raising more than $600 million. 

Continuing the Jesuit Tradition of Excellence

As a graduate of a Jesuit university himself, Dr. Pestello understands firsthand the promise of an education guided by the Society of Jesus and its rigorous, justice-oriented, educational mission.

Dr. Pestello currently serves on the executive committee of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and the executive committee of the Atlantic 10 Conference. He is also a member of the Global Advisory Board of Jesuit Worldwide Learning. In St. Louis, he serves on the executive committee of the Chair’s Council of Greater St. Louis Inc., as well as the boards of the Cortex Innovation Community and Arch to Park.

Dr. Pestello joined SLU after serving six years as president of Le Moyne College, where he achieved record-breaking levels of enrollment, fundraising, endowment and campus construction. Prior to that appointment, Dr. Pestello was a faculty member, department chair, associate dean and provost and senior vice president for educational affairs during his 25-year career at the University of Dayton.

Dr. Pestello earned his bachelor’s degree at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, from which he was awarded an Alumni Medal in 2018. He completed his graduate work in sociology at the University of Akron.