Father Brian Shanley, O.P., Named President of St. John’s University


The St. John’s University board of trustees Nov. 24 announced the unanimous election of Father Brian J. Shanley, O.P., as the university’s 18th president. Father Shanley is expected to begin his tenure at St. John’s on Feb. 1, 2021.

From 2005 until 2020, Father Shanley served as president of Providence College in Rhode Island. He was the longest-serving president in the college’s history.

His selection follows an extensive national search overseen by an 18-member committee representing a cross-section of St. John’s University faculty, students, administrators, and current and past board members.

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.

“On behalf of the entire board of trustees, I am absolutely delighted to welcome Father Shanley to St. John’s,” Janetschek said. “Father 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.”

At Providence College, Father Shanley was 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,” Father Shanley said. “I have long admired St. John’s commitment to the founding mission set forth by the Vincentian community to provide a Catholic education for first-generation students in a diverse and inclusive environment. I look forward to leading our community to remain committed to that mission amidst the unique challenges of the current times.”

Father Shanley, a 1980 Providence College alumnus, graduated summa cum laude with a degree in history and was ordained to the priesthood for the Dominican Fathers in 1987. Four years later, he was sent to the University of Toronto to complete a Ph.D. in philosophy. He soon joined the faculty at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he was awarded tenure. He subsequently spent time at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and at Emory University in Atlanta. He joined the Providence College board of trustees in 1999.

Father Shanley served three consecutive five-year terms as president of Providence College before concluding his service in June. 

Father 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, “Father 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.” 

Father Shanley will succeed Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph.D., who in June announced his intention to retire as St. John’s president. In 2014, he was named the university’s first lay president.

Founded in 1870, St. John’s University is a Catholic and Vincentian university. The main campus is located in Queens, and the university also has campuses and locations in Staten Island and Manhattan, and in Hauppauge, L.I.; Rome, Italy; Paris, France; and Limerick, Ireland. The university has 15,700 undergraduate students and 4,450 graduate students.  


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