St. John’s University in Jamaica has named a new president and it’s not a priest.
The Board of Trustees has selected Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, 60, as the school’s 17th president; the first time a priest will not be at the helm. The position becomes effective in July.
Gempesaw, a native of the Philippines, serves as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He will succeed the Rev. Joseph Levesque, who was appointed interim president last August to replace the Rev. Donald Harrington.
Harrington, 68, who served as St. John’s president for 24 years, retired following accusations of a corruption scandal. He had acknowledged that he accepted lavish gifts from former Dean Cecilia Chang, who was on trial for numerous offenses and committed suicide in her Jamaica Estates home in 2012.
Gempesaw has been called “an accomplished scholar, teacher and administrator” by the St. John’s board, who has increased Miami’s applicant pool and improved student diversity. Miami’s enrollment is similar to St. John’s, which has 21,000 students.
“Dr. Gempesaw brings an impressive record of academic achievement, administrative excellence and the ability to inspire students, faculty, alumni and administrators,” said Peter D’Angelo, chairman of the board.
D’Angelo added that Gempesaw is a “visionary leader who understands and embraces St. John’s mission as a Catholic and Vincentian university, and has the skills necessary to realize our goals for the future.”
The new president said he was “deeply honored” to have been chosen. “With its diverse and accomplished students, exceptional faculty, devoted alumni, dedication to service and commitments to the poor ... St. John’s has become one of New York’s most enduring institutions through its mission to provide a world-class affordable education.”
Before going to Miami, Gempesaw held several positions at the University of Delaware. He is a graduate of the Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines, earned his master’s degree from West Virginia University and his Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University.
He has published more than 100 papers in academic journals on various topics including agribusiness economics and marketing and international trade.
Gempesaw and his wife have two grown sons.