Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Next SLU President

Last spring, the Heithaus Haven hosted a Town Hall meeting on "The Next SLU President."  In addition to conversation about desired qualities and characteristics of our next president, Ken Parker arranged for the meeting to include a dialogue with two distinguished and renowned Jesuits - Fr. Joseph Tetlow and Fr. John Padberg.  Thanks to the efforts of Tomas O'Sullivan, we have a detailed record of the conversation to share:

Minutes of the
Townhall Meeting on the Next SLU President

3:00pm-5:00pm: Friday, May 10, 2013

Carlo Auditorium, Tegeler Hall, Saint Louis University

Attendance: c. 40-45
including students, staff, faculty, alumni, & Jesuits

Facilitator:          Bonnie Wilson (Department of Economics, John Cook School of Business)
Recorder:           Tom├ís O’Sullivan (Department of Theological Studies, College of Arts and Sciences)


The meeting opened with a welcome to all participants from the facilitator on behalf of the contributing editors of the Heithaus Haven. She suggested we are gathered to share, to learn from one another, and to begin to discern the qualities and characteristics of our next president. Out of respect for the fact that we are gathered in a Catholic, Jesuit institution, she invited all, whether Jesuit or not, whether Catholic or not, to join in silence for an opening prayer.

The prayer offered thanksgiving for the Jesuits, who share their mission with us; for the administrators and benefactors of the university; for Fr. Biondi as he discerns his new role; for Mr. Adorjan and the trustees as they embark on the task of finding a new president; for our students, currently in the midst of their exams; and for the least among us; and asked for the blessing of being gracious to others and of knowing ourselves.


The prayer was followed by a brief introduction to Fr. Claude Heithaus, S.J., to the Heithaus Haven, and to its mission:

Through the provision of an open and public space for dialogue, with focus on how our institution’s internal norms, practices, and structures embody (or fail to embody) its core values, the Heithaus Haven aims to provide a forum for discovery that fosters solidarity across all members of the SLU community through reasoned discourse; and that advances Saint Louis University as a world-class Catholic, Jesuit institution in “pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity.”

The facilitator thanked all participants for joining the Heithaus Haven today as we seek to live out and practice this mission. Before the floor was opened to participants, she offered SLU’s own Mission Statement as a context for the discussion:

The Mission of Saint Louis University is the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity. The University seeks excellence in the fulfillment of its corporate purposes of teaching, research, health care and service to the community. It is dedicated to leadership in the continuing quest for understanding of God's creation and for the discovery, dissemination and integration of the values, knowledge and skills required to transform society in the spirit of the Gospels. As a Catholic, Jesuit university, this pursuit is motivated by the inspiration and values of the Judeo-Christian tradition and is guided by the spiritual and intellectual ideals of the Society of Jesus.

She also directed participants’ attention to the definition of the president’s role provided in Article III, Section 3 in the Bylaws of Saint Louis University:

The President shall be the chief executive and administrative officer of the University. The President shall understand and be committed to the University’s Jesuit, Catholic tradition which is integral to the University’s identity and will be responsible for carrying out this tradition in every aspect of the University. The President shall have the general and active management, control and direction of the business operations, education activities and other affairs of the University, and shall execute all authorized bonds, deeds, mortgages, notes or other securities of the University in the name of the University, excepted where required or permitted by law to be otherwise signed and executed, and except where the signing or execution thereof shall be expressly delegated by the Board of Trustees to some other agent or officer of the University. The President, together with the Secretary of the University, shall sign all diplomas issued by the University. The President may delegate to the Treasurer authority to sign and execute, in the name of the University, all authorized bonds, deeds, mortgages, notes or other securities of the University …

With this context in mind, we ask: what are the qualities and characteristics of a leader who will actualize SLU’s mission?

The facilitator suggested the gathering take three minutes to be silent, and reflect on words and phrases that come to mind in relation to this question; and to consider what questions we need to be asking ourselves and others; and possible answers to these questions which may help the Board of Trustees as they seek to actualize new leadership.

[Three minutes of silence followed]

The floor was then opened to comments and questions.


Could someone define “servant leadership”? It’s a term I’ve been hearing a lot lately.


Facilitator: What does “servant leadership” look like? What does it feel like? Why do we not know? [Laughter] Or are we perhaps being shy?

Participant:  One national expert on “servant leadership” is a guy named Larry Spears; he lives in Indianapolis. Perhaps we could invite him to SLU to present or contribute to a future forum to offer some help or guidance on this issue.

He has identified ten characteristics of servant leadership.

[Further information:
Spears’ website is available at: http://www.spearscenter.org/
His LinkedIn profile can be found at: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/larry-spears/8/620/547
The ten characteristics of servant leadership Spears identifies are: listening; empathy; healing; awareness; persuasion; conceptualization; foresight; stewardship; commitment to the growth of people; and building community. Further information on these ten characteristics can be found in his article “Character and Servant Leadership: Ten Characteristics of Effective, Caring Leaders,” available here: http://www.leadershiparlington.org/email%20uploads/spears_final.pdf ]

On Holy Thursday this year, my daughter served as an altar server; and at that Mass the washing of the feet by the priest takes place. My daughter pointed out that it’s not the priest but actually the altar servers who have the really hard work. The readings for that Mass identify what it means to be a servant leader.

[Further information:
The readings for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper are available here:
The most significant reading in regard to servant leadership is the Gospel: John 13:1-5.]

Facilitator: I generally worship at an Episcopal church, and on Holy Thursday our rector asked us whether there was a third great sacrament [in addition to baptism and eucharist]: what if, every week, we not only dined at Christ’s table but also washed one another’s feet? It is a very intimate thing to touch another’s feet; but there are two parts to this, because it’s also a very intimate thing to put oneself in the position of having another wash your feet. We should be mindful that there are challenges on both sides, and a need for intimacy and trust in important ways.

Participant:  Servant leadership makes me think of Paul’s hymn in Philippians [2:5-11] which says of Christ: although he existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself. Jesus didn’t exploit equality with God, but he humbled himself. In this regard I’ve been inspired by the present pope: he has every right to wear the triple tiara and all the fine vestments; but he hasn’t done that (quite to the consternation of some). That’s been impressive to me, because he’s leading by his own example. It goes back to that hymn in Philippians and the way Christ exercised his lordship: he simply did not exploit his power.

Participant:  SLU undergraduates can teach us a lot about service. I have a good friend who graduated from SLU two years ago. When I was here, in the sixties, there was no organization to encourage and enable undergraduates to engage in service. There certainly is now! She is working at a homeless shelter. She has inspired me. If we want to know about service, we should ask our graduates who have gone on to serve.
[Further Information:The organization referred to by this speaker is most likely the Jesuit Volunteer Core:  http://www.jesuitvolunteers.org/
      Participant:  I would like to shift the perspective and look at the question from a different, collective, sociological, political viewpoint. From a sociological perspective, leaders always come out of the public: it’s not an individual phenomenon. Therefore, service needs to be worked out together rather than alone. (An example of this is the way many of us have worked collectively over the past year.) So I would hope for a President who can be part of us, and serve us not as an individual but collectively. I feel it is important to establish that as a model of leadership.

Facilitator: So we have: servant leaders; collective leadership; an institution that inspires our students to do as the Jesuits do; a desire for leadership that is collaborative and for building institutions that would support a collaborative process.

Participant:  We should also think about what the important attributes of followers are: the people who are going to be led. Part of the crisis we just went through was related to an abdication of responsibility on the part of many people. So we also need to think about the characteristics of good followers.


Participant:  A question: must the President be a Jesuit?

Facilitator: The President must not be a Jesuit. As of 2003, the bylaws required that the President had to be a Jesuit. But the bylaws have been revised (in 2010 or 2011?) so that requirement is now removed.

Participant:  I ask again: must the President be a Jesuit? For SLU, must the President be a Jesuit – is it important for our identity to have a Jesuit President?

Facilitator: De jure we do not have to have a Jesuit President – but do we need a Jesuit President?

Participant:  The bylaws say “The President shall understand and be committed to the University’s Jesuit, Catholic tradition which is integral to the University’s identity and will be responsible for carrying out this tradition in every aspect of the University.” It doesn’t follow from this that the President must be a Jesuit, but if “the President shall understand and be committed,” etc.: who better than a Jesuit?

Participant:   In addition to the business role of the President, there is also the apostolic care of the University which is vested in the President and always has been; what would that look like if we had a lay President?

Participant:  Seven out of twenty-eight Jesuit schools are now run by laypeople. The first lay president of a Jesuit university was John J. DeGioia at Georgetown University. He cares deeply about the mission and Jesuit identity; he has taken the full 30-day version of the Spiritual Exercises. For me, as a layperson who loves the Jesuits, I very, very much want the next President to be a Jesuit. I think it is incredibly important for a number of reasons, not least the symbolic value. The question is whether we can find someone who is to the satisfaction of all constituents.

SLU is the second oldest of the Jesuit universities; it is bigger than most of the others. It could be viewed as a springboard or a step up: a Jesuit who has experience and has established a record at a smaller Jesuit school could move into a bigger job at SLU. But I don’t know details regarding specific Jesuits.
[Further information:For more on the Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, see: http://www.ajcunet.edu/institutionsFor a full list of the current presidents of these schools, see: http://www.ajcunet.edu/directorsFor more on Dr. DeGioia, President of Georgetown, see: http://www.georgetown.edu/president/biography/index.html ]
Participant:  Perhaps Fr. Michael Garanzini from Loyola Chicago?

[Further information:
For more on Fr. Garanzini, see: http://www.luc.edu/president/biography.shtml ]

Participant:  It would be nice to have a Jesuit: but I don’t think any will be available. I would welcome a layman or a laywoman. There has only been one woman who has been President of a Jesuit University: Maureen Fay at the University of Detroit Mercy; and she was a Dominican sister. Whoever our next President is, the person should have an awareness of Jesuit history and of the Spiritual Exercises. The first person I directed in the Spiritual Exercises here, many years ago, was a Quaker; and she said she thought it was the best experience she had. The next President can be a man or a woman, a Catholic or a non-Catholic: but they need to know the history of the Jesuits and to make the Spiritual Exercises.
[Further information:
For more information on Dr. Maureen A. Fay, O.P., President of the University of Detroit Mercy from 1990 to 2004, see:


Participant:  I would like to bring the conversation back to the qualities and characteristics of a leader. In lists of the qualities of good leaders – trustworthy, honest, etc. – one quality that is consistently mentioned can be described as “likeability.” The person should be nice; someone people can get along with. That is a quality I would like to see in the next President.

Facilitator: A pastoral quality?

Participant:  Yes.

Participant:  I would like to add two more words to describe the next President: someone who can humanize and encourage within the community. A person who offers recognition of the dignity of everyone working within the university, and can call the gifts out of everyone working in the university: someone who can harness the true value of their work. That’s the kind of pastoral leadership I think we need.
The next President should be informed by the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, cultivating a spirit that we are all in this together, in solidarity with each other and with the entire world.

Participant:  Leaders should also recognize those occasions when they don’t know something; they should not just consult others, but draw on others’ expertise, particularly the expertise of staff, but also of students and faculty. They need to be able to admit: “I don’t know … but I will find out.” They recognize that this is a sign of strength, not of weakness.

Participant:  Drawing on what has happened here at SLU and elsewhere, it is important to recognize that a genuine leader has to have a sense of what people actually do: the various people among all the stakeholders. Increasingly university administrations have become increasingly separate from those who are led: they live separate lives in separate places doing separate things, and thus they don’t understand and therefore don’t appreciate what is going on. This seems to derive from corporate culture seeping into universities, primarily through sports. The President of an institution like this has to be able to assert what is different about a not-for-profit university, and what is different about this institution in particular. This really boils down to its mission, which makes it very different from corporate culture. But that corporate culture seems omnipresent, and once a leader buys into it they are led by a different mission and a different ethos. We need a leader who will speak back and push back against the message of raw power with the message of truth.

Facilitator: At this point I would like to read some remarks made by the new Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mr. Adorjan, in a recent interview in the Beacon.

“One thing you don’t want to have in this job is a business guy … We need somebody who understands academics. We need somebody who understands health care. We need somebody who has the ability to add to the endowment and grow this university. Most business people don’t understand the faculty and the academic world.”

Participant:  I am just a staff person [cries of No! No!], but with all the things being said, I think the Jesuit mission is imperative to the SLU community. Whether it is a woman or a man or a Jesuit proper [laughter], we are looking for someone who models the mission; someone who has a strategy for incorporating the whole community. I also here a lot of business propaganda: but in what business is there no incentive for the staff? Where’s the rationale? Where the direction? We need someone to model it and to lead it.

Participant:  How much are we going to expect the next President to be a corrective to the last President? Maybe I’m getting away from the point, but I do think the question of whether the next person should be a Jesuit gets right at this issue. It’s going to take us a while to process what has happened; we’re not even sure if we’re clear to start the conversation. One of the things we need to think about with regard to the qualities we want in the next President is whether we are expecting the next person to come in and to counter some of the issues we have been facing.

In a lot of ways we need to restore credibility in the Jesuit mission: it’s often presented front and center, but we need to work through what it actually means.

Facilitator: Some questions I have heard people asking with regard to the next President:  Should we have a short search for a person who can lead us though the bicentennial in 2018?  Or should we search for a long-term candidate who can lead us through the next 20-plus years?

Participant:  I’d like to come back to the issue of the people being led. I know some people whose children graduate from Marquette, and apparently their current President lives with students – perhaps in one of the dorms – and eats with students. This is an example of the kind of person we’re talking about: someone who realizes that his or her actions are always symbolic.
[Further information:For more information on Fr. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., President of Marquette, see:
http://www.marquette.edu/president/biography.php ]
Participant:  A lot of people are saying we don’t want a business man – and yet we want someone who can grow the endowment. That someone must inherently be a business man. If you look at the description of the President in the bylaws, the first third focuses on Jesuit values, but the next two thirds are all very financial. If we look at the trends of presidents’ roles across the country, there is a need to be entrepreneurial, a need to innovate, a need to find a third stream of funding; all the traditional sources of money are going down. I love higher education; I want to speak for these higher values; but funding higher education is the next big crisis. We need to think about how our next president is going to handle this.

Participant:  I see tensions here that are going to make it very difficult to find someone. I think Mr. Adorjan’s tripartite description is very apt: academics; the healthcare aspect; and someone who can grow the endowment. These are three excellent qualities. What we’re talking about here is also an excellent quality: the moral dimension of a leader. I can’t say which of the four is more important. It’s going to be a very difficult thing finding someone who has expertise in all four areas: it may be a difficult search.

Participant:  I think we also need someone with some political knowledge. We do have divisions in our community and we need someone who is comfortable with on-going division. There are many people, with many different priorities. When the focus is only on unity and community, then it’s the already-marginalized who always end up even more invisible. So we also need someone who is comfortable with conflict.

Participant:  Whoever the leader is, there should be a period of intense preparation. I would suggest that he or she – or the Jesuit – should make the 30-day retreat of the Spiritual Exercises, which would give a very good foundation for service and servant leadership. And after the retreat, he ought to have a Spiritual Director who can monitor his ongoing progress and provide guidance and discernment in his on-going spiritual journey. There needs to be some very intense spiritual preparation for the job.

Participant:  We need someone with wisdom and integrity and a listening ear. Teresa Sullivan at the University of Virginia is a really significant model here, with regards to connecting with a lot of different stakeholders. We need someone who is very involved in the projects of academic programs, someone who can be an ally. Something very important will be lost if we don’t value the academic. So we need someone who will do more than just grow the endowment: we need someone who will engage with the academic priorities of the university.
[Further information:For more information on Dr. Sullivan, President of UVA, see: http://www.virginia.edu/president/biography.html ]


At this point, the facilitator acknowledged the presence in the audience of invited guest speakers, Fr. Joseph Tetlow, S.J., and Fr. John Padberg, S.J., and asked them to take the floor. The facilitator introduced both speakers, stressing Fr. Tetlow’s expertise in spiritual direction and reading some of his own words on his role as a spiritual director; and praising Fr. Padberg’s passionate commitment to scholarship and spirituality.

Facilitator: I would like to add that we at SLU have been richly blessed by your presence and your contributions here. Given your experience, can you help us to pull these reflections together, and further contextualize and inform our conversation?

Fr. Tetlow: I would like to say a little but more about why I’m interested in what has happened. I have been faculty; I have been a dean; I have been a president; I have been on five or six university boards. I have been involved in several angles, from several positions, with this sort of struggle. While I was on staff in Rome, Saint Louis University was one of the beacons of light: it really is a very important institution.

I liked a lot of what I have heard, and what I am going to say picks up on a lot of what has already been said.

Service leadership begins with respect for the others you are serving. Take the example of seeing, in every sick person, Jesus Christ. Whatever position we are in, we need to see Jesus Christ in others. A servant leader models the mission. Do we, at this time, need a corrector? Someone who picks up the needs of this place at this time and matches them as well as he can? He needs to be himself; and he needs to listen, to really listen.

There are ten elements or qualities I would like to highlight.

Scholarship. There are 14,000 students at SLU, including the graduate programs: therefore, we are looking for a scholar.

Faculty Member. We need a person that faculty would like to have as a fellow faculty member; thus, he needs to be a faculty member. The President is the head of the faculty, like Jesus is the head of the church.

Charism of Leadership. He needs the charism of leadership – which is something that cannot be learned at Harvard Business School.

Collaboration. The Jesuit who comes needs to know that we decided long ago that we are not only men for others, but men with others. We are with them as colleagues. He needs to be able to collaborate.

A Jesuit. Should he be a Jesuit? I think so. I believe it should be an American Jesuit: a Jesuit from the U.S.

Ecumenism. He needs to understand ecumenism; and to do what Pope Francis did when he had the journalists – of different faiths and nationalities – all together, and said “I want to give you a blessing: I pray you can be as blessed as you can be.”
[Further information:For more information on Pope Francis’ blessing, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/world/europe/with-blessing-pope-shows-an-openness-to-other-faiths.html ]

  Enabling the Faculty. The President’s role is to enable the faculty. The talk I gave made this point: SLU will remain what it is because of the faculty; not the President, deans, or Board. Your responsibility echoes back on you: if the faculty wants it to be a Catholic university, it will be, even if you have Godzilla as the President!
 [Further information: For more information on Fr. Tetlow’s presentation, “Our Heritage: Catholic and Jesuit,”  see: http://www.slu.edu/x74233.xml ]
      Faith that does justice. We are looking for someone who really is committed to the faith that does justice. He needs to be unable to sleep at night when he finds out some of his people are not being paid well; he needs to worry about that. If he is a scholar, if he is part of the faculty: he will do that.

      A Businessman. A President feels like he’s running a business; well, he is! Higher Education is now one of our major industries. It makes a superb contribution to humankind – but it is also a big business; and it is coming towards a crisis. Tuition has gotten to the point where students are saying: it’s not worth it. This is going to keep happening; and the crisis is not going to go well.
      A Scholar among Scholars. Perhaps most importantly, the President should be a scholar who belongs with scholars, who knows who they are, and likes being with them.

      And all of us should be concerned about the crisis in this industry called Higher Education.


     Fr. Padberg: After listening to Joe, I am almost reduced to silence.

      Fr. Tetlow: It’s never happened!

Fr. Padberg: I thoroughly agree!

I was a member of faculty here for five years – from 1964 to 1973; I was also Academic Vice President here for those last four years, and then Acting Executive Vice President. We were in the midst of a severe financial crisis, and Fr. Reinert had made it clear he was going to be retiring. All of these issues came up then too. With SLU’s growth, they are even more acute now.

I would like to make a point about being a Scholar, and what a President who is a Scholar can do. It’s an experience I had on one of the Boards of Trustees on which I served. At the beginning of our meetings, after the prayer, the first thing the President did was hold up a book or an article produced by a member of the faculty. He would tell us about it, and then say, “Remember: this is what we’re about.” It really made a difference.

We need someone who is comfortable with entering into conflict. There are going to be differences of opinion that need to be expressed strongly or truthfully. Take, for example, the time I spent on an Executive Committee for Academic Affairs: I can remember strong differences of opinion between the Medical School and the Law School. Or running a meeting of a Faculty Relations Committee: even if they all disagreed with each other, they could still agree that the president was not doing what he should be! At the end of my service, they gave me a nicely-bound copy of the Faculty Handbook – which we had fought over for years and years! So the President is going to have to deal with differing views of what the place is like and what it ought to be.

Third: the President is going to have to model what this place is and what it is about. He has to be a scholar – but you cannot expect him to sit down and produce scholarly works while he is President, because it is also a business, and he will have to focus on that.

I had listed some things people have already mentioned, such as service leadership, and whether the President should be a Jesuit.

I was on the Search Committee for the President of Georgetown. It was like nothing I had ever done before. We were also blessed with God’s grace, because there were 50 people on that search committee, but there was not one single week when an angry word was spoken. I hope they get a strong and gracious chair for the search committee, who can keep it controlled, and move it forward. Not one angry word in all those months, even though we had strong differences of opinion! The head of that committee established an atmosphere in which everyone was respected. But don’t expect the search committee to achieve results very easily.

I would like to have a Jesuit as President. I think there are several people, who have not yet been Presidents but have been in administrative positions, who could take the job; there are also those who are already Presidents of smaller institutions. Look at Fr. Fitzgerald: he was President of Fairfield, and he was happy there. But then he was recruited: “Look, Fitz; rise to a challenge!"
[Further information:Thomas R. Fitzgerald, S.J., was the 6th President of Fairfield University (1973-79) and the 30th President of Saint Louis University (1979-87). See further:
http://www.fairfield.edu/about/officeofthepresident/universitypresidents/thomasrfitzgerald/http://www.slu.edu/readstory/homepage/4087 ]
Let me try to sum up some of what was talked about, and present a summary of the material discussed thus far, in a schematic format. I see three major headings (and then subheadings):

§  Commitment to the Jesuit and Catholic Mission.
§  Experience in Higher Education.
o   This includes an academic and administrative willingness to become familiar with the administrative process of the medical center.
§  Presence to and service with—not to—
o   the university community,
s  faculty,
s  students,
s  staff;
o   the Jesuit community;
o   the Saint Louis community,
s  civic community,
s  service community,
s  benefactor community.

Can he induce trust that he is doing a good job: the best job he can? Does he want to find out from and learn from the rest of the university community how he might do a better job? Any president is inevitably going to have a series of distractions, transient or long-term: he needs somebody or some people he can rely on to be honest with him, with whom he is comfortable. It doesn’t have to be another Jesuit, but it does have to be someone he can really trust. If anyone here is asked to fulfill that role by the next president, they should consider it a burden and a privilege. I was president of Weston Jesuit School of Theology for ten years: it was a great privilege, but I could never have done it without people I could rely on.

Participant:  Could you help us by searching your experience from the search committee at Georgetown? What was the role of the chair? What was the role of the trustees? Who was the committee accountable to? Here the trust between Faculty and the Board is, at least, complicated.

Fr. Padberg: An excellent question. At Georgetown, the first thing the committee wanted was a Jesuit: no-one disagreed on that. We approached two Jesuits, and, if either had said yes, they would have had the job. Two other Jesuits might have liked the job, but we thought they couldn’t do it. So you may find the same situation.

The Search Committee was appointed by the Board of Trustees; by the Executive Committee of the Board. Sometimes the Chair of Board is the Chair of the Search Committee. This wasn’t the case this time, but the Chair was a member of the Board, trusted and respected by the Board; and he gained the trust and respect of the Committee as we worked together.

The composition was utterly unwieldy: if one group had one thing, the next group had to have two, et cetera, et cetera. The best work of the Committee was done by about six or seven, maybe eight, people, who had sort-of sub-committee responsibility. They were appointed by the other members of the Search Committee; I think the Board consulted the Faculty Council regarding appointments. This group worked very hard.

I went through twenty-six meetings of the Search Committee. How did it work? One of the first and most important things we did was to hire a first-class national academic search company. The Committee gave them the characteristics they wanted in the president. We relied mostly on Jesuit members of the Committee to ferret out potential Jesuit candidates. The company came up with a large number of possibilities, most of whom we discarded immediately, because they didn’t have characteristics we thought were essential. Then we went through the CVs and recommendations of about ten people. We interviewed four. It came down to two people, whom we interviewed at greater length. And we recommended these two to the full Board. The question arose as to whether we should rank the two candidates. We decided we did not wish to, as either would have been acceptable. And the Board picked one of them.

It was a good choice: he knows the Jesuit tradition; he has done the Spiritual Exercises; he has people he relies on. He has internalized the mission to the extent that he knows it innately.


Facilitator: I think before we go on I would like to say that – while it has been a long year – the really difficult work lies ahead of us. As was mentioned earlier, it’s time to put our shoulders to the plough and do whatever hard work is required to make SLU embody its mission. So: what should the next steps be? And what can we do now?

Participant:  There is an unknown problem … which reminds me of the Ba’ath Party after Saddam Hussein was toppled. How do we move on – and respect the Vice Presidents and other administrators who were appointed by Fr. Biondi? We need advice on making that transition.

Fr. Tetlow: I’m sitting here thinking: Jesus said, “Be compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate.” This may be the first quality faculty need to exercise. I have been very careful to stay out of the developments this year. I see that a man – who gave his life for a quarter of a century and transformed this institution – was brought to the point where he knew he needed to resign. He has been given the grace of failure. It is a grace – but it’s very painful: look at the crucifix. So compassion is needed now. Be compassionate and patient. We also need to be compassionate with our own colleagues, because the faculty itself is divided.

I mean it when I say the institution will remain Catholic as long as the faculty does. I will call you to that: call you to compassion.

Participant:  What we have been talking about here is fruitful and serious. But can the Trustees hear this? How can we help the Trustees see these things also?

Fr. Padberg: I think there are two things to bear in mind.

One: I hope the Faculty Senate can mirror the kind of thoughtfulness that has been evident here today, because the Trustees and administrators can’t deal with every faculty member every day – but if the Senate can mirror things, that will be a big help.

Second: whoever comes in to be President would be utterly foolish if he tried to do a house-cleaning of upper administration. There would be people who would want that, but the day-to-day ordinariness of any institution is carried out by those people who know what needs to be done.

More than anything else, let the Faculty Senate act as a representative body: and you communicate to your representative. The Senate are going to have as great a task for the coming year as they have had for the past year.

Participant:  I think this event has been so helpful. When the Search Committee is formed, would it be a good idea to continue to have these events – involving students, staff, faculty, and members of the Search Committee? This forum could play a role in keeping them grounded, and open to everything; we can help the Search Committee stay grounded.

Fr. Padberg: Remember that on the Committee there will be some non-academic people in business, who are successful – and busy. Don’t ask them for more than they can deliver. Coming to a whole series such as this might discourage their involvement.

Fr. Tetlow: The big thing is communication. Any time there is a meeting of the Committee, this is essential. Much of what happens in higher education could be eased by greater communication. There are often failures on both sides.

Participant:  I want to ask a hard question. And I ask it with utter respect. I have spent 35 years of my life at three different Jesuit institutions, and I hold the Jesuits in the highest regard. But – for those of us who hope the next President will be a Jesuit – are there features in Jesuit spirituality that helped bring about the situation we have had? And should we be wary going forward?

Ignatius himself was a soldier. The Jesuit superior is a ‘general,’ not an ‘abbot.’ Is there a tendency for a command-and-control model which maps unhelpfully onto our own culture: the corporate command-and-control model and the ethos of the Midwest (which we have seen in many on-line comments this year: if you don’t like it, just leave)?

Second: if you look up the word ‘Jesuit’ in the dictionary, the second definition includes ‘a tendency towards casuistry; equivocation; willingness to say one thing and mean something else.’ I don’t want that person as our next president!

Fr. Tetlow: One, Ignatius was not a solider. He liked to fight, but he was not trained militarily. He made miserable decisions, stupid ones, and he suffered for it. In every constitution, a man is put in charge, to make the decisions about what he is to do, unless he thinks of something better. Ignatius was more tart with those who obeyed literally without any reflection. What has happened here is not because of that. After all, many virtues have a shadow side. If you put three Jesuits in a room, you will have at least eight opinions! The Superior says what needs to be done, and everyone does what he thinks should be done.

Fr. Padberg: We have had very few Superior Generals who acted with the top-down model: because we’re reasonably independent-minded people, and we are trained right from the beginning to ask questions, and to ask questions of superiors. We do have the reputation you described, but there’s very little of it in actual reality. If it is found, it’s due to individuals’ characteristics. Devious people are manipulative – and this has applied since the beginning of society. Two Sundays ago I gave a talk at the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in the County. I was speaking about the new pope, but some of these issues also arose. Have there been such people? Oh yeah, I know all the naughty stories about the Jesuits – and if there aren’t any good ones, I lie and make them up!

I agree with Fr. Tetlow on the importance of compassion. But since Saturday I’ve heard faculty members express concern that Fr. Biondi is still going to be around for another year. The fact is that people are still frightened he will take some kind of revenge or retribution: what would you tell those people?

Fr. Tetlow: I don’t know the situation well, so take this with a lot of salt. Any action he may take is going to be made public and stay public – and then those who can take action, shall take action. I think the idea that Biondi is going to spend a year getting even is a mistake. It’s not wise on his part. What is he going to do next? If he fires people they won’t even let him into the Jesuit villa. I would not be afraid of that myself.

Fr. Padberg: He will certainly be under a microscope. I don’t think he is an unintelligent person. I presume, as an intelligent person, he will recognize the situation; and there are people who can speak to him, and people on the Board who will speak to him.

Participant:  But since October he has made a series of decisions that were not in his own best interest (such as supporting Vice-President Patankar). What if it was, and remains, a question of emotion, not reason?

Fr. Tetlow: I think the early decisions about the VP are very different from revenge. Backing one’s own man is not the same thing.

Participant:  I’m concerned about whether and how we might address inaccurate perceptions on the part of the Board of Trustees. For example, the idea that faculty had accused the President (or Trustees?) of diverting funds. Perhaps there was a misquotation, but we never made that accusation. What else has been attributed to faculty? What else are people thinking, are Trustees thinking? There is concern that the new Chair of the Board thinks that the faculty made accusations against Trustees that have not been made. If there are similar misconceptions, how will we ever know what they are going on?

Fr. Tetlow: Do you know the President of the Faculty Senate? Talk to him or to her, and say ‘you really have to let the Chair of the Board know the situation.’ Communicate! Communicate!

Fr. Padberg: Talk to the Faculty Senate Chair and make sure the communication happens.

Participant:  In response: it’s been clear in my conversation with Trustees that there’s been a massive break-down in communication (for example, Mr. Adorjan’s recent misunderstanding regarding the phrase hoi polloi). We are going to see more of those misunderstandings. We have been seeing them as chinks in the armor; but now we just have to keep on communicating, and doing it in an effective way.

I’d also like to address your experiences at Georgetown. I’ve worked for seven Vice-Chancellors: some were mad, some were bad, some were dangerous to know (like Byron). In my experience the good ones were scholars – that is so important – but the real test lies in trying to understand the impossible job the President has. Look at all the things the President is supposed to do: no one can do it all, it’s an impossible job! The test for the ones who did it well was the quality of the people they had around them. One of the things that drew me when I came here three years ago was the high quality of people in the department and in administration. One of the problems since has been seeing them pushed aside. All of the many people we have had at SLU in interim positions are a sign of a President who had lost his way. In talking to Trustees, we agreed that he had difficulty in find people to give him good advice. But it may be a criterion for us to keep in mind for the search: when judging an individual candidate, to try and push them on the kind of advice they wish to receive and the kind of people they want around them. It would be very wrong to do a clean sweep, and attempt to ‘start again’ from ‘year zero.’ They will need time to put together advisors, and I hope they find people of higher quality than some of the contemporary bad advisors.

Fr. Padberg: One of the most successful Jesuit institutions I have been around is Boston College; and I don’t think I ever saw as good a group of Vice-Presidents as I saw there. One of the other successful elements I have seen was that they tried very hard to create an environment in which Members of the Board could feel free to say anything in the course of a meeting. It was extraordinary: the President would propose something, and none of the Trustees felt any problem intervening and asking ‘Have you thought of this?’ And the President modeled what he wanted: he would take on the Board and tell them exactly what he thought. I’ve been on one Board where you could barely think you should interrupt at all: you were almost decorative! I’ve seen good and bad Vice-Presidents, but at BC the VPs were good across-the-board.

Participant:  Perhaps we could communicate with the Search Committee and suggest they ask for anonymous references from the people who had been working for the candidates – their immediate subordinates?

Participant:  That could be a difficulty because of issues of confidentiality.

Participant:  We could ask: has this person empowered you in your leadership?

At this point the facilitator drew the meeting to a close, thanking Dr. Kenneth Parker and Dr. Gregory Beabout, as well as Fr. Tetlow and Fr. Padberg. She concluded by thanking everyone for coming, and assuring us: “We will be talking more.”

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