Remarks by the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., at the inauguration of Rev. Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw as president of St. John’s University

October 24, 2014

Good afternoon.  I’m enormously pleased to welcome Dr. Gempesaw to the ranks of university presidents, and to do so here at St. John’s University, my former academic home, and an institution I very much love and respect. 

For 145 years, St. John’s has pursued the audacious goal of assisting students without easy opportunities to further their prospects in life by offering something far more valuable than job training.  You’ve taught them the world. 

  • Not just accounting, but the workings of the economy.
  • Not simply teacher training, but the psychological development of children.
  • The precise formulation of pharmaceuticals, yes, but also the very boundaries of scientific discovery.
  • Legal procedure to be sure, but also history and ethics; concepts of rule-of-law and justice. 
  • Theology and philosophy remain in your core, and taught for what they are: wisdom for a life ahead filled with defining questions of who the students will become and the commitments they will undertake. 
  • Opportunities for research, internship, service and even publication, all to the bring students actively into the worlds they read about in their books. 
  • And beyond this, the faculty’s own scholarly work and service, all meant as a gift to improve the world as we know it. 

The arts, the humanities, the social sciences, the sciences, the breadth of professional endeavors.  A Catholic liberal arts education of the most classic form.   A gift, to those whose parents could never have imagined such an education for themselves, and could barely dream of offering it to their children.  All of this, the work of a Vincentian education and a sacred trust.

Dr. Gempesaw, this audacious goal, this mission, is now placed into your hands to foster and encourage.  Faculty, staff and students alike will look to you for inspiration; for efficient management; for the pressure to adopt new ideas; and yes, even as a one-man-sales-force, encouraging others to join the mission of St. John’s through philanthropy and partnerships.

Great institutions do not become so by presidents alone.  But no institution becomes great without great leadership.  Bobby, thank you for accepting this job, so important to so many.  Please count on the support of the women and men who comprise your sister school, DePaul University.  We are proud to work alongside you and for this wonderful institution.

May God bless you and - through all of us, together - may God bless St. John’s University.