Biography of Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

Now president emeritus of Saint Louis University, Lawrence Biondi, S.J., retired as president on Sept. 1, 2013, after 26 years. He is the longest serving president in the University's nearly 200-year history.

Before coming to Saint Louis University, Biondi led a distinguished career in higher education as a professor, a department chairman and a dean. But he is best known for his remarkable tenure as president at SLU, which lasted from 1987 to 2013. 

Biondi led an era of transformation and achievement at SLU. In addition to modernizing the campus and helping revitalize the surrounding Midtown neighborhood, Biondi committed vast University resources to academics, student scholarships and financial aid, faculty research and state-of-the-art technology. He focused on recruiting the finest faculty and students, increasing the University's academic standards and achievements, and developing the University as a major research center.

Highlights of Biondi's tenure include:

  • The successful completion of fundraising and capital campaigns totaling more than $785 million.
  • The investment of an estimated $850 million in improvements, enhancements and expansions.
  • An increase in the size of SLU's midtown campus from 113 acres with 62 buildings to 268 acres with 131 buildings.
  • Completion of the $82 million Edward A. Doisy Research Center in 2007. The state-of-the-art, LEED-certified facility offers SLU's world-class researchers a world-class home.
  • Construction of the $81 million on-campus Chaifetz Arena in 2008. The 10,600-seat, multipurpose facility has dramatically enhanced the student experience and is home to SLU's basketball teams. It also is a great attraction in St. Louis for other sporting events, concerts, shows and conferences.
  • Construction of the Health Sciences Education Union, Medical Center Stadium, Hotel Ignacio, John and Lucy Cook Hall, McDonnell Douglas Hall, Doisy College of Health Sciences and the Center for Advanced Dental Education, as well as the renovation and expansion of Busch Student Center, among many other projects.  
  • An increase of the University's endowment from $93 million to $980 million (as of Aug. 8, 2013).
  • The upgrade of the University's credit rating: AA-/Stable (Standard and Poors); A1/Positive (Moody's).
  • The classification of SLU as a research institution by the Carnegie Foundation.
  • The addition of faculty positions, lowering the student-faculty ratio to 12-to-1 and reducing the average class size to 23.6 students.
  • An increase in the number of endowed chairs and named professorships to 65, drawing and retaining the nation's leading professors in their respective fields.
  • The establishment of new academic, service, leadership and diversity scholarships. In 2012, SLU provided a record $339.1 million in scholarship funding.
  • An increase in the total number of students from 9,869 to 13,981.
  • An increase of the average ACT score of entering freshmen from 22.7 in 1987 to 27.2 in 2012.
  • The appointment of the first female provost at any Jesuit university.
  • Recognition as a character-building college by The Templeton Guide: Colleges That Encourage Character Development.
  • The establishment of the Center for World Health and Medicine, an innovative initiative dedicated to addressing critical health concerns in developing nations.
  • The launch of the first Center for Sustainability at a Jesuit university.
  • The creation of the first Campus Kitchen in the United States, which has served more than 125,000 meals during its first five years.
  • The expansion and enhancement of Saint Louis University's Madrid campus as the first foreign university to be recognized officially by Spain's Ministry of Higher Education.

Born Dec. 15, 1938, in Chicago, Biondi attended Catholic elementary and secondary schools before entering the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus in 1957. He was ordained as a priest in 1970.

Biondi holds six degrees. His master's degree in linguistics (1966) and his doctorate in sociolinguistics (1975) were conferred by Georgetown University. He has three degrees from Loyola University Chicago and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago. In addition, Biondi has pursued non-degree language studies in French, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish. He has published four books and holds a certificate from Harvard University's Institute for Educational Management. Before coming to Saint Louis University, Biondi was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Chicago.

Widely considered one of the most influential people in the region, Biondi was named St. Louis' "Citizen of the Year" in 2005 by past recipients of the award sponsored by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Readers of the newspaper also tapped him as one of St. Louis' "Citizens of the Century" in 1999.

In 2006, the St. Louis Business Journal honored him as one of only 10 "legends" -- individuals "who have gone beyond being influential to become legends in our region and beyond." And, in 2011, Biondi earned the John D. Levy Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) of St. Louis, which honors leaders who "have applied their leadership, creativity and commitment to service to make St. Louis a better place." In 2012, a local publication, the Ladue News, named him one of the year's "Top-10 Most Dynamic People in St. Louis."

Committed to urban renewal, Biondi played a significant role in the redevelopment of Midtown St. Louis and Grand Center, the city's arts and entertainment district. He earned the prestigious St. Louis Award for his outstanding service to the city's development and the Leon R. Strauss Urban Pioneer Award for contributing greatly to the development, restoration and improvement of St. Louis. He also received a lifetime achievement award from MOKAN, a regional organization dedicated to minority inclusion on construction projects.

Biondi has been recognized as a key leader in higher education, and earned a Chief Executive Leadership Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in 2001.

The President of Italy conferred upon him the rank and title of Cavaliere, Order of Merit, Republic of Italy. He also is a member of the American Society of the Italian Legions of Merit.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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