St. John’s University Names Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. 18th President After National Search

Dominican priest and noted academic previously served as President of Providence College.


The St. John’s University Board of Trustees announced today the unanimous election of Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. as the University’s 18th President. Fr. Shanley is expected to begin his tenure at St. John’s on February 1, 2021.

The selection of Fr. Shanley follows an extensive national search overseen by an 18-member committee representing a cross-section of St. John’s University constituencies, including faculty, students, administrators, and current and emeritimembers of the Board of Trustees. The search committee was led by St. John’s alumnus and Chair of the Board of Trustees William J. Janetschek, Retired Partner and Chief Financial Officer, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. The University was aided in the search by WittKieffer, one of the nation’s leading higher education consulting firms.

“Fr. Shanley’s steadfast devotion to Catholic education and to student success were apparent from our very first conversations with him. He has a demonstrated record of achievement as President of Providence College, and we believe that he is the ideal candidate to serve as our beloved University’s 18th President. We look forward to, and will be grateful for, Fr. Shanley’s visionary leadership in the years ahead.”

From 2005-2020, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. was the 12th and longest-serving president in the history of Providence College. During Fr. Shanley’s tenure at the College, he was widely credited with making substantial improvements to campus facilities and student services, hiring large numbers of new faculty, diversifying the student body, and strengthening the College’s national profile in academics and athletics.

“I am honored and delighted to be elected by the Board of Trustees to serve the St. John’s community as President of the University,” said Fr. Shanley.

Founded in 1870, St. John’s is a Catholic and Vincentian university that prepares students for personal and professional success in today’s global society. St. John’s instills in its students not only the desire for knowledge and pursuit of academic excellence, but also the compassion to serve others, especially those most in need, following the example of St. Vincent de Paul. St. John’s main campus is located in Queens, New York, and the University also has campuses and locations in Staten Island and Manhattan, and in Hauppauge, New York; in Rome, Italy; in Paris, France; and in Limerick, Ireland. As of fall 2020, the University has 1,400 full-time and part-time faculty, approximately 15,700 undergraduate students, and 4,450 graduate students who come from 45 states and 121 countries.

Fr. Shanley will succeed Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., who announced in June 2020 his intention to retire as St. John’s President after joining St. John’s in 2014 as the first lay President in its then 144-year history.

Very Rev. Stephen M. Grozio, C.M., Provincial Vice Chair of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees and Provincial Superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians), said, “Fr. Shanley is deeply committed to the Vincentian mission of St. John’s – to provide an excellent education to all people, especially those most in need – and to the University’s social justice, antiracism, diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. My confreres and I welcome Fr. Shanley to the St. John’s community, and we look forward to working with him far into the future.”

Fr. Shanley, a 1980 Providence College alumnus, graduated summa cum laude with a degree in history and was ordained to the priesthood in 1987. Four years later, he was sent to the University of Toronto to complete a Ph.D. in philosophy. Soon thereafter, Fr. Shanley joined the faculty at The Catholic University of America where he was awarded tenure. He subsequently spent time at the University of Notre Dame and at Emory University. Fr. Shanley joined the Providence College Board of Trustees in 1999 and was elected President in 2005, serving three consecutive five-year terms; he concluded his service as President of Providence College in June 2020.

“I am thrilled for Fr. Shanley. He was such an impactful president during his 15-year tenure at Providence College, and he will long be remembered as one of the best presidents in the history of our college,” said Providence College President Fr. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P. “He was an amazing colleague, friend and mentor to me. I know that he still had more to offer, and I have no doubt that he will do a wonderful job at St. John’s University. On behalf of the entire Providence College community, I wish him the very best and every success in this new endeavor.”

This story is excerpted from the original published by St. John’s University on November 24, 2020.