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OT - Biondi monthly message - Office of the President

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This message sure lays out a list of fantastic accomplishments. It also explains some details behind the trip to Asia.

Biondi monthly message

April 19, 2013

TO: SLU Trustees, Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents and Benefactors

FROM: Lawrence Biondi, S.J., President

As many of you may know, I recently returned from Southeast Asia — China, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia — where I met with loyal alumni, as well as prospective students and their parents.

For much of my trip, I was joined by Dr. Ed Trevathan, Dean of our College for Public Health and Social Justice. We visited a number of potential education and research partners, and I am pleased to report that SLU has signed Memoranda of Agreement with Wuhan University and with Huazhong University of Science and Technology. These agreements will allow for joint research projects, as well as exchange opportunities for our faculty and students.

In addition to Dr. Trevathan, I would like to also acknowledge several others who joined me on my trip: Dr. Winston Chan, SLU Trustee; Dr. Min Qian, Chair of our Department of Epidemiology; and Ms. Mei-Ling Tung, International Admission Counselor .

Although international trips can be tiring, I always come home re-energized after reconnecting with our wonderful graduates around the globe. And it is an honor to meet young women and men (and their parents) who are thinking about entrusting their education to us. For any family, choosing a college is a major decision, but that is especially true for those who are from different countries and cultures.

Since I got back from Asia, we’ve had several University announcements. We named Jim Crews as our Head Men’s Basketball Coach. Coach Crews is an honorable and honest man who led our student-athletes through a very difficult time with great success. I believe he is the right person for the job.

1In addition, Thomas H. Brouster, Sr., announced his intention to resign from his position as the Chairman of our Board of Trustees at the end of this academic year due to the growing demands of his banking business and increased personal responsibilities. His letter to the Board announcing his resignation follows below.

April 10, 2013

Dear Trustees,

Over the last year, it has been my honor to serve you and the University as Chairman of the Board of Trustees, a position I initially assumed with a very heavy heart after the death of our dear friend and Board Chairman Jack Pruellage. I want you also to know how honored I was to be elected Chair by you, my colleagues, last September.

Over the past several weeks it has become clear to me that the responsibilities for my banking business are requiring more and more of my time. While the turnaround of Reliance Bank has been extremely rewarding, I am very involved day to day with Reliance Bancshares and need to be able to devote the time needed to complete this important work. Also, I now have increased family responsibilities that are very personally important to me. As a result, I write to you today to let you know I have decided to resign my position as Chairman of the Saint Louis University Board of Trustees effective at the end of this academic year.

This is not a decision I came to easily and only after significant reflection; but the substantial time commitment required of the Chairman does make it the best decision for me and my family. Because I do want to continue to be of service to Saint Louis University through my areas of expertise and financial support, it is my intention to remain a trustee.

Over the past eight months I have worked very hard to provide leadership and guidance during a challenging time. With the help of others on the Board, I think we have established collaborative Board relationships with the faculty leadership and with other University stakeholder groups; it is my hope that this spirit of cooperation continues as we work through the issues at hand.

I love Saint Louis University and it has been a true honor to serve on the Board of Trustees for the past 12 years. I have been energized by the passion and concern each of you shows for SLU, and I thank you for your support of me in my role as Chairman over the past year. I promise to give that same support to the next Chairman.

Thank you again for all that you do for SLU, and I look forward to seeing each of you at the May Board meeting.

Sincerely,

Thomas H. Brouster, Sr. Chairman Board of Trustees

Cc: Lawrence Biondi, S.J., President

I want to thank Mr. Brouster for serving as chairman of our Board, and all of us at SLU are grateful for his service as a trustee. Like his fellow members of the Board, Mr. Brouster has an unwavering commitment to our Catholic, Jesuit Mission that is essential to our University’s ongoing success.

This academic year, we have a number of successes to celebrate, and I think it is important that we focus on and appreciate the many things that make SLU great.

Students

I am so proud of the students we have at Saint Louis University. They are academically gifted, active on campus and committed to service in the Ignatian tradition. Even among our sister Jesuit universities, which share our values, I believe we have the finest students anywhere.

In 1987, the University was primarily a commuter school of 9,800 students. Today, there are nearly 14,000 students, of whom more than 4,500 live in SLU’s residences. We continue to attract students from all 50 states and nearly 80 foreign countries.

The academic quality of our students has grown significantly, too. The average ACT score of the incoming freshman class for the 1986-87 academic year was 22.7. This fall, we welcomed a freshman class with an average ACT score of 27.2. I should note that 2012 freshman class included nearly 600 more students than the 1986 freshman class.

The rise in size, diversity and academic quality of our student body has not happened by accident. It has been the result of strategic planning and significant collaboration between multiple divisions at the University.

Faculty

Here at SLU, we have remarkable faculty who not only excel in teaching, scholarship and research, but also care about our students. Our professors want our students to succeed in and out of the classroom. Their commitment to our Catholic, Jesuit Mission ensures that we offer our students a truly unique and dynamic educational experience that will carry them far into the future.

The number of full-time ranked faculty has grown from 725 to 1,390 during the past 25 years. And thanks to the generosity of our alumni and benefactors, we have increased the number of endowed chairs and professorships at the University from 16 in 1987 to 65 today. These endowed positions help us attract and retain the finest faculty from around the world — professors who not only advance their fields of study, but also raise SLU’s profile, nationally and internationally.

Patients and Health Care Providers

Here at SLU, our physicians, nurses and other health care professionals provide leading-edge and compassionate care to their patients. Our practitioners balance treating our patients with researching new treatments and educating the next generation of health care professionals.

We launched SLUCare, our physicians’ practice, in 1995. At that time, there were approximately 290,000 outpatient visits. In Fiscal Year 2012, there were more than 500,000 visits to SLUCare providers. Moreover, SLUCare is the only academic medical practice in the St. Louis area that is fully accredited by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care Inc.

Thanks to efforts of the entire SLUCare team, it’s obvious that Saint Louis University makes a significant difference in improving the health of our community.

Staff

Approximately two-thirds of our workforce — one of the largest in St. Louis — is made up of our staff. When I think about our dedicated staff, I like to recall an often-told story of President Kennedy visiting NASA for the first time. During a tour of the facility, the president introduced himself to a janitor, asking him what he did at the Space Agency. While he was mopping the floor, the janitor replied: “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

While it’s true that not every member of the staff works directly with our students, they all make a difference in the educational experience we offer at SLU. From departmental secretaries, to groundskeepers, to public safety officers, our staff members work diligently behind the scenes to make sure that a SLU education is second-to-none.

Academics

Across the board, we have high-caliber academic programs, including nationally ranked programs in biology, earth sciences, entrepreneurship, geriatrics, international business, law, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychology, public health, speech language pathology, social work and supply chain management.

In response to the changing needs of our society, we have launched numerous new majors in recent years, including civil engineering, environmental studies, health management, sustainability and sports management. We also have launched a number of centers and institutes during the past 25 years, including the Doerr Center for Social Justice Education and Research, the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, the Emerson Ethics Center, the Center for Renaissance and Medieval Studies, the Center for Sustainability and the brand new Center for Workforce and Organizational Development.

Research

Our emphasis on life-changing research is one of the requisites that makes SLU distinctive among faith-based institutions. We are one of only seven Catholic universities in the United States classified as having high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. To enhance our research efforts at a time when funding has become increasingly difficult to secure, we launched the President’s Research Fund to support promising research at the University. To date, the President’s Research Fund has provided $3.6 million to 135 research projects for our SLU faculty.

We also have made other bold moves to enhance research at SLU. For example, when the Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company announced its plans to downsize its St. Louis workforce, we seized the opportunity to hire six of their outstanding scientists to establish our innovative Center for World Health and Medicine, which targets diseases that plague developing countries. The Center is located in the Edward A. Doisy Research Center, where more than 150 scientists work in state-of-the-art laboratories with a common pledge: To fight human suffering.

Service

Each year, our students, staff and faculty provide more than one million service hours, earning us the No. 4 spot on Washington Monthly’s list of universities that participate in the most community service. In addition to very successful annual service events, such as Make a Difference Day, Open Doors and Relay for Life, we have many, many ongoing efforts, including Campus Kitchen, the Health Resource Center, our Legal Clinics and Casa de Salud.

Here at SLU, service is more than just an extracurricular activity. It is part of the very fabric of the education we offer our students, and more than 80 of our courses directly integrate service into academic content. Our commitment to service and service learning recently landed us on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the sixth consecutive year. This is highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service.

Finances

Financial strength is critical to having the necessary resources to advance our University. During the past 25 years, our endowment has grown more than tenfold, from $93 million to $970 million (as of April 15, 2013). This growth, which has occurred during several challenging economic periods in U.S. history, is due to our sound fiscal management and strong investment strategies. And the size of our endowment has allowed us to direct our fundraising efforts toward important capital projects that directly benefit our students, faculty and staff, such as the Health Sciences Education Union, the Medical Center Stadium, Chaifetz Arena, the Center for Global Citizenship and the Joe and Loretta Scott Law Center.

A comparison with the nation’s 27 other Jesuit colleges and universities in six key areas also speaks to our financial strength. The following reflects FY12 data unless otherwise noted.

1. Credit Ratings: Our Standard & Poor’s rating of AA- is matched only by Boston College and Holy Cross, the highest ratings among our sister Jesuit institutions.

2. Cash Flow/Debt Ratio: Our 27.5-percent cash flow/debt ratio is higher than 24 of the 27 other Jesuit institutions. This very positive factor is important because it means we don’t have much interest expense, and we have a high capacity to borrow if necessary.

3. Operating Results: In FY12, six Jesuit institutions experienced operating losses. SLU, on the other hand, has not experienced an operating loss since Fiscal Year 2000, when we did experience a rare operating loss related to our physicians’ practice.

4. Enrollment: This fall, only four other Jesuit institutions surpassed our total student enrollment of 13,981: Georgetown, Boston College, Fordham and Loyola Chicago.

5. Endowment: As of June 30, 2012, our endowment stood at $852.8 million. Only two institutions — Boston College and Georgetown — had larger endowments. And, again, our endowment as of April 15, 2013, stands at $970 million, an increase of nearly 14 percent since nine-and-a-half months ago.

6. Net Assets: Our net assets of $1.4 billion in FY12 were second only to BC, which had net assets of $2.3 billion during the same fiscal year.

Fast forward to today, and several Jesuit institutions are facing cutbacks because of economic concerns. In January 2013, for example, Loyola New Orleans reported a $7 million shortfall in its projected FY14 budget and that there will be no salary increases in the coming fiscal year. Then in February 2013, Loyola Chicago announced that it was cutting 5 percent of its remaining FY13 budget and that salaries were being frozen until January 2014. Of course, SLU is not immune to external economic forces. While we have established a $13.4 million compensation pool and have no budgetary reductions planned for FY14, we must remain vigilant in using our financial resources as wisely as possible.

Mission

Our Catholic, Jesuit Mission is the foundation of everything we do: teaching, learning, research, service and patient care. As I noted in my February 2013 message, our Campus Ministry programs are thriving. Our Jesuit Affirmation Action Program has been extremely successful. Since 1989, nearly 90 Jesuits have been hired at SLU through our Jesuit Affirmation Action Program. It should be noted that these Jesuit positions are newly added positions to any department or division’s authorized personnel lines. And our efforts to share our Mission with new and current faculty, staff and students have been part of our SLU culture for more than 20 years.

Our Mission is much more than the framed document that hangs in so many offices and meeting spaces around campus. It is our way of operating. It is what drives us. It is a declaration of the moral responsibilities that we must all embrace in our hearts and then execute in our actions.

In Conclusion

We have accomplished a great deal during the past 25 years. And, when I say “we,” I truly mean it. Thanks to the collective efforts of all of us — including trustees, parents, alumni, benefactors and friends — SLU has made tangible and significant progress. Regardless of issues, perceptions or misconceptions, I think we can all be proud of our shared achievements. And if we can work together collaboratively — inspired by the mission and values that guide our great University — we will continue to succeed in the eyes of our alumni as well as citizens, and corporate and foundation leaders locally and across our country.

Before I close this message, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on the terrible events that occurred in Boston this week. News media have reported that at least two students from our sister Jesuit institution Boston College were among those injured during Monday’s Boston Marathon explosions. Our hearts and prayers go out to these students and their families, as well as to the entire Boston community and everyone affected by this terrible tragedy.

Also, please keep the victims of Wednesday night’s fertilizer plant explosion near Waco, Texas, in your thoughts and prayers as well. These tragic incidents serve to remind us of what truly matters most in our world: family, friends and faith.

May God continue to bless you and your loved ones.

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Sounds like a great retirement speech..

In all seriousness Biondi has done some great things for the school...

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Credit Ratings? Cash Flow/Debt Ratio? Operating Results? Net Assets? Very impressive stuff from our corporate CFO...I mean academic and priest.

In all seriousness, the huge disconnect between Biondi and the faculty becomes apparent when you understand that he operates and speaks in the world of big business and the faculty lives and speaks in the world of philosophy and letters. Personally, I am very, very impressed by this report; however, I am guessing it is meaningless to much of the faculty. The faculty believe they are the university and are irreplaceable; this report tells me that the university is financially positioned to thrive in the future and can afford to replace the malcontents.

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Let's not get to carried away with all of the financials. I believe that our endowment was once 1 billion ,or very close to it. (2007 or 2008 ) Yes the market crashed but almost all indexes are higher now than then. I would hope we have net contributions in the last 5 years. I also believe we had a triple A bond rating a few years ago.

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Let's not get to carried away with all of the financials. I believe that our endowment was once 1 billion ,or very close to it. (2007 or 2008 ) Yes the market crashed but almost all indexes are higher now than then. I would hope we have net contributions in the last 5 years. I also believe we had a triple A bond rating a few years ago.

running an endowment or pension fund is vastly different than buying an S&P 500 index.

Im going to guess, without looking at it, that bonds overall for universities are down because of the worry about tuition rises/lack of job placement for graduates.

I do think its getting to the time that Biondi moves on (provided we have someone prepared to take over). I just don't want to rag on him for things i think are out of his control. like someone told me today "i can build a risk model, i cant guarantee returns" - anyone who tells you they can is lying

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I agree that you can't compare an index with an endowment but I would also expect that sum to be larger after 5 years . I t works both ways. An endowment fund should not lose 30% in a 2008 . I think our performance has been poor.

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Credit Ratings? Cash Flow/Debt Ratio? Operating Results? Net Assets? Very impressive stuff from our corporate CFO...I mean academic and priest.

In all seriousness, the huge disconnect between Biondi and the faculty becomes apparent when you understand that he operates and speaks in the world of big business and the faculty lives and speaks in the world of philosophy and letters. Personally, I am very, very impressed by this report; however, I am guessing it is meaningless to much of the faculty. The faculty believe they are the university and are irreplaceable; this report tells me that the university is financially positioned to thrive in the future and can afford to replace the malcontents.

The runaway costs of higher education can be attributed to many things. The increased leverage provided by our government, academics that bemoan the loss of any dept/chair/etc. in a host of arcane subjects, poor business models (egads - even the thoughts of thinking of education as a business are taboo), etc. I am not at all surprised that for-profit advanced education has gained an increased share. Many of the instructors at these "diploma mills" have day jobs at respected institutions. Phoenix University could be the model for the future - but lo and behold, a "regional accreditation review team" has trumped up some charges that this rising Phoenix has "insufficient autonomy" from its corporate parent (private equity Apollo Group) that may prevent the university from achieving its "mission and successful operation." I found this wildly ironic. Many think Biondi operates with too much autonomy. If only a corporate parent could rein him in AND FIND A FREAKIN WAY TO GET US IN THE BIG EAST!!!

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My bad - I should have referred to THE University of Phoenix rather than Phoenix University.

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-I read this at least partly as a sales pitch to the NBE

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According to NACUBOCI, the Longhorns of Texas are the first from the top to have a gain in endowment since 08. Hah-vahd is still down a cool 6 billlllion dollars.

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two things that jumped out at me before i lost interest...

young women and men!?!? it's men and women, gotdammit. women can go right on ahead being as good as men, but i'll be gotdiddlydamned if they come first. women have been coming second or not at all for millennia, and i see no reason to change now.

and then he called jim crews honorable and honest. that alliteration just chaps my ass...

is he familiar with honomatopeia? does he celebrate hanukkah? is he a renowned scholar of the han dynasty? is he friends with new donor, hans blix? does he drive a honda civic? does he honk the horn? is he the head honcho? is his favorite star wars character han solo? does he shave with a hatori hanzo sword? does he like haunted houses? is he responsible for hans being replaced by his brother jan in the second mighty ducks movie? does he vacation in hong kong? is his favorite basketball player of all time hanno möttölä? does he sit around in his office blasting off to hans zimmer scores? does he prefer instead to stroke it to goldie hawn flicks? i mean, where does it end!?!?

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According to NACUBOCI, the Longhorns of Texas are the first from the top to have a gain in endowment since 08. Hah-vahd is still down a cool 6 billlllion dollars.

ESPN/Longhorn Network, baby. The eyes of Texas are upon you.

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I agree that you can't compare an index with an endowment but I would also expect that sum to be larger after 5 years . I t works both ways. An endowment fund should not lose 30% in a 2008 . I think our performance has been poor.

The performance has not been "poor".

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Does the endowment include alternative investments, like the school's ownership stake in Alberici Construction, far flung real estate holdings and other random investments that people leave to the university in their wills?

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Credit Ratings? Cash Flow/Debt Ratio? Operating Results? Net Assets? Very impressive stuff from our corporate CFO...I mean academic and priest.

In all seriousness, the huge disconnect between Biondi and the faculty becomes apparent when you understand that he operates and speaks in the world of big business and the faculty lives and speaks in the world of philosophy and letters. Personally, I am very, very impressed by this report; however, I am guessing it is meaningless to much of the faculty. The faculty believe they are the university and are irreplaceable; this report tells me that the university is financially positioned to thrive in the future and can afford to replace the malcontents.

The problem becomes replacing a faculty loaded with "malcontents" with quality. The school now has a bad rep across the country with faculty. That makes it much harder to replace the "malcontents".

The letter completely ignores the schools continued decline in academic rankings by multiple ranking groups.

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Does the endowment include alternative investments, like the school's ownership stake in Alberici Construction, far flung real estate holdings and other random investments that people leave to the university in their wills?

It depends. Most entities have these types of donated assets as part of their planned giving program and may or may not report it as part of their endowment. However, purely unrestricted gifts pretty much go into the endowment and are usually immediately liquidated. Of course, not all assets are easily liquidated and that can have an impact on endowment valuations which is effectively beyond the control of the University.

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The problem becomes replacing a faculty loaded with "malcontents" with quality. The school now has a bad rep across the country with faculty. That makes it much harder to replace the "malcontents".

The letter completely ignores the schools continued decline in academic rankings by multiple ranking groups.

I have several friends and relatives work are or hope to be tenured faculty. The demand for decent positions--particularly in major metro areas like St. Louis--significantly outweighs the supply of such potions. I have former colleagues work commute from places like Toledo and Carbondale and would die to work at a place like SLU even if Biondi is a cruel dictator.

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Probably right. That differs a lot between dields of course. Folks in the humanities are really in bad shape for academic gigs. They get treated like as a result. Even within the same institution, the humanities people are often second class citizens. Shame really.

I think the "post tenure review" that they tried to pull off might be the level where people will actively avoid a place. No sense in Working for tenure if tenure doesn't really exist. That proposal was really radical and if it had passed, would have made national news amongst academia.

SLU has been mired in weirdness of all manner of late but it is still a very attractive academic gig.

I have several friends and relatives work are or hope to be tenured faculty. The demand for decent positions--particularly in major metro areas like St. Louis--significantly outweighs the supply of such potions. I have former colleagues work commute from places like Toledo and Carbondale and would die to work at a place like SLU even if Biondi is a cruel dictator.

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yeah, what a swell list of accomplishments!! why all the fuss??

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/flare-up-at-slu-over-faculty-members-removed-from-student/article_29f23f12-b113-5459-9f8f-d7242a648eab.html

Yes, it is "still a very attractive academic gig." No doubt; even all those "malcontents" know that. But do not doubt this either, my friends: ""SLU has been mired in weirdness of all manner of late...."

Honestly, it has all been very, very tiring; almost surreal at times how odd some of the things have become.... but the sheer fatigue of it all.... real hard to sommunicate it to outsiders but I'm sure you all have your own complaints about work and/or management....

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Is it attractive compared to Georgetown, ND, Marquette, Boston College, etc.? Because the stated goal is to be the best Catholic University in the country. The goal shouldn't be to attract and retain average faculty. It should be to attract and retain some of the best faculty in the country. Forgive me for not being excited because it is more attractive than the Toledos and Carbondales of the world. It was more attractive than those schools when Biondi took over.

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Endowment at 970 million. and 14% increase in the past year. Looks like Chaifetz is making a ton of money or donations are skyrocketing.

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