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Apr 11, 2014 08:18 AM EDT

Miami Provost Named President of St.John’s

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Conrado M. Gempesaw, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Miami University, has been named the 17th president of St. John's University effective July 1.

Gempesaw, 60, will become the first person outside the church to head the 144-year-old Catholic institution. The long-time university administrator succeeds Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, who was appointed interim president last summer after the school's leader Rev. Donald Harrington resigned from the top administrative job.

Peter D'Angelo, chairman of the board, said that Gempesaw comes with an excellent record of academic achievement, administrative excellence, and the ability to encourage students, faculty, alumni and administrators.

"In Dr. Gempesaw, we have found a visionary leader who . . . has the skills necessary to realize our goals for the future," D'Angelo said in a statement. We are confident he will help St. John's continue its remarkable transformation from a commuter school into a global educational institution with enhanced and expanded facilities and new academic initiatives, while maintaining its mission of providing a world-class affordable education.

At Miami, Gempesaw introduced new enrollment management strategies to increase student count on-campus and to develop a diverse campus community. He also formulated new academic initiatives to improve retention and graduation rates.

Prior to Miami, Gempesaw served in several positions at the University of Delaware, including dean of the college of business and dean of the college of arts and sciences of the institute. He has a doctorate in agricultural economics from Penn State University; a master's degree from West Virginia University; and a bachelor's degree from Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines.

"I am deeply honored to have been chosen to lead St. John's University during this transformational time," Gempesaw said, Newsday reports.

At the time of his resignation, Harrington admitted accepting generous gifts from Cecilia Chang, a 59-year-old former dean who killed herself in her Jamaica Estates home Nov 2012, a day after she admitted to embezzling $1 million and using foreign students as her personal servants. Last August, an internal investigation found that the former president and his chief of staff, Rob Wile, committed "errors in judgment" but no criminal wrongdoing.

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