Pestello to leave Le Moyne, LeMura supported and on board to take over

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Photo credit: Lisa Johnston | [email protected]

Aubrey Zych, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, March 21, Le Moyne College announced that its current president would be leaving this summer to join another college. And by Monday, March 24, the college’s Board of Trustees had announced that they had already found its new president.

Current college president, Dr. Fred Pestello, was not the only senior administrator at Le Moyne to have recently received a hefty offer at another university. Dr. Linda LeMura, who currently serves as Le Moyne’s provost and vice president of academic affairs, received an offer from La Salle University in Philadelphia to serve as the university’s president, according to Sharon Kinsman Salmon, the college’s board of trustees chair.

At risk of losing their two most senior leaders, and in light of LeMura’s dedication and commitment to the college and its community, the board decided not to conduct a traditional year-long national search. Instead, the board met extensively and came away in full support of LeMura, according to Salmon.

“The board was faced with the real possibility of losing our two most senior leaders at the same time,” Salmon explained in an e-mail sent out to Le Moyne faculty members. “Dr. LeMura had a very tight time constraint for responding to LaSalle. The Executive Committee of the Board met and thoroughly discussed the situation and came away firmly supporting Dr. LeMura.”

The support from the board gave LeMura the confidence and reassurance to turn down the offer from LaSalle, Salmon added.

President Pestello fired up a crowd of St. Louis University students, Friday morning at the announcement of him joining the school this summer.

“If you know this institution, its importance, its mission and its success, how could I not be humbled and honored to be here?” Pestello said to the crowd.

“I am humbled and honored to follow in the footsteps of the Jesuit presidents who have come before me, and I am deeply committed to carrying on the mission they have fostered so well,” Pestello added. “I have been watching Saint Louis University’s progress for years, and I am thrilled for this opportunity to lead an institution that I admire and respect so much.”

Pestello was chosen unanimously as SLU’s search committee’s first choice for a new president. The search began last September when their previous president, Lawrence Bioni, S.J., retired. Since then, longtime SLU administrator William R. Kauffman has served as interim president. Pestello will lead SLU as their first lay president, a position he held at Le Moyne as well.

“Dr. Pestello stood out among an outstanding pool of candidates, and we are very excited for what the future holds for St. Louis University under his leadership,” J. Joe Adorjan, chairman of SLU’s Board of Trustees, said. “Dr. Pestello has spent his entire career in Catholic higher education, and he understands and embraces SLU’s Jesuit mission.”

“Dr. Pestello has a proven track record of success, and his list of accomplishments in higher education is long and impressive,” Adorjan added. “He is a collaborative and inclusive leader, and I am absolutely confident that he will be a great president for Saint Louis University.”

Pestello has also gained the support of the Jesuit community within the greater St. Louis area and the state of Missouri. Missouri Provincial Douglas W. Marcouiller, S.J. says the province is very happy to have Pestello join their community this fall, stating that he believes Pestello’s beliefs and missions are all in line with theirs.

“Father Adolfo Nicolas, the Jesuit superior general, recently urged the presidents and board chairs of all Jesuit universities to continue to develop spiritual leadership,” Marcouiller said. “That is precisely what Dr. Pestello has done during the past six years as president at Le Moyne. He is deeply committed to SLU’s Catholic and Jesuit mission, and we look forward to working with him.”

Students took selfies with the soon-to-be Billiken president, tweeted their excitement, and congratulated Pestello following the announcement Friday morning.

“Just got to meet the new president of SLU and I got to say, I am already obsessed with this guy. The biggest welcome to Dr. Fred Pestello!!” Steven Deves, a SLU student, tweeted.

“New SLU President Pestello approves of selfies. I approve of Pres. Pestello,” Brendan Dunleavy, another SLU student, tweeted, alongsidea selfie he took with Pestello.

Just moments after the SLU ceremony, the Le Moyne College Board of Trustees announced to the campus community that a leadership change would soon be taking place. Students and faculty received an email outlining the change and the Board of Trustee’s plans moving forward, and thanking Pestello for his service to the college over the years.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank Dr. Pestello for his leadership and vision since taking over as president in 2008,” Salmon wrote. “The past six years have been a time of tremendous achievement and growth for Le Moyne, and the institution has moved forward on all key fronts, from academics to facilities to vibrant growth in enrollment. We wish him well in his new role.”

Salmon added in the email that the board would move swiftly to fill the leadership role at Le Moyne.

And swiftly they moved. By Monday afternoon, just three days after Pestello’s announcement, the board announced their endorsement for LeMura, hoping to make an official vote, election and announcement within the first week of April, just two weeks from now.

“She possess the best possible credentials to move us forward,” Salmon wrote in an e-mail sent out to Le Moyne faculty Monday afternoon announcing the leadership change. “Her accomplishments as Dean of Arts and Sciences and as the Provost have been most impressive, and her commitment to the mission of the college is not only genuine but passionate. Dr. LeMura has demonstrated her aptitude and commitment to collaborative leadership, strategic thinking, Jesuit and Ignatian ideals, a mission-based approach to teaching and learning, faculty support, effective fundraising, internal and external community relations, and, most importantly, dedication to student success especially in these unconventional times.”

“In addition, Dr. LeMura is knowledgeable about the world of higher education and its challenges, and Le Moyne’s potential growth within it,” Salmon added. “Her connection to key external stakeholders in the community and beyond would serve Le Moyne well.”

Fifteen minutes after Salmon sent out the e-mail to faculty members, Pestello sat in on a meeting with two student reporters from The Dolphin. He told both reporters he did not know who the next president would be.

The trustees are meeting on campus today and tomorrow to speak with constituent groups, including faculty, administrators and student leaders to gather input, answer questions and address any concerns about the leadership change.

LeMura has been with the college for 11 years, beginning as the college’s dean of arts and sciences in 2003, a position she held until 2007. In 2007, she became the college’s interim provost, which became a permanent position two years later in 2009.  Before Le Moyne, she served in several roles at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania from 1992 to 2003. Her roles included professor, graduate program director, chairperson and assistant chairperson in the departments of exercise science and biology and allied health sciences. There, she taught applied physiology, anatomy and physiology, bioethics, and the biology of aging. LeMura then served as the interim associate dean of the college of arts and sciences from 1994 to 1995. LeMura is also extensively published; her field of research and expertise is pediatric obesity, pediatric applied physiology, lipid metabolism and energy metabolism.

If appointed, LeMura will have big shoes to fill in this position at Le Moyne. Under Pestello’s leadership over the last six years, enrollment has reached all-time highs three years in a row, the endowment has nearly tripled in size, and the college has taken on numerous campus construction projects, including the Madden School of Business, the new science addition, the Plaza, the Pub, and the renovations to Coyne, among others. The college has also risen in national rankings, including being added to the Princeton Review’s Top 378 colleges. Pestello also initiated the OneLeMoyne mission, and revised the core curriculum.

Yet, even more notably, should LeMura take on the position as president, she will be the first female president at a Jesuit college in history. Many Jesuits institutions have traditionally been run by Jesuits exclusively, a Catholic congregation that only men can join. While the tradition of only having Jesuits run the college has recently shifted across several Jesuit campuses, women presidents have yet to take the reins for the schools.

Dr. Pestello officially assumes the position as president at SLU this summer on July 1. He will remain at Le Moyne serving as president until June 30.

“I’ve gotten to know students in a variety of ways here … and I’ve never been with students and not been impressed with their character and enthusiasm and love of the college,” Pestello said Monday morning after arriving back on campus. “Le Moyne has a student body that I think is very special and I’m going to miss them. And I appreciate the support they’ve demonstrated for me, my presidency and the institution.”