John P. Schlegel, S.J. Obituary
John P. Schlegel, S.J., 72, former president of the University of San Francisco, died peacefully on Sunday, Nov. 15 in Omaha, Nebraska. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Fr. Schlegel was a Jesuit for 53 years and a Catholic priest for 43 years.
In 1991, Fr. Schlegel came from the Midwest to lead the University of San Francisco. During Fr. Schlegel’s tenure from 1991–2000, the institution witnessed a 7.5 percent enrollment increase; an increase in student diversity from 35 to 45 percent; a major development campaign that brought $92 million to the university; the purchase, lease, renovation, or construction of several buildings; an award-winning campus landscaping effort; and an endowment growth from $38 million to $149 million.
John Schlegel was born in Dubuque, Iowa in 1943. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Saint Louis University, a theology degree from the University of London, and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. In 1969, he obtained a faculty position at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Beginning in 1982, he moved rapidly through the administrative ranks of three other Midwestern Jesuit universities. He served as dean of the college of arts and sciences at Rockhurst College, as dean of the college of arts and sciences at Marquette University, and as executive and academic vice president at John Carroll University. In June 1991, following a nationwide search, Fr. Schlegel was selected to be the 26th president of the University of San Francisco, succeeding John Lo Schiavo, S.J.
Just three months after Fr. Schlegel took office, he launched the Multicultural Action Plan, an initiative to enhance the cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity of USF. Fr. Schlegel’s personal commitment to multicultural and interfaith understanding was symbolized by a book, Building Wisdom’s House, which he co-authored in 1997 with William Swing, the Episcopal Bishop of California; Stephen Pearce, senior rabbi of Temple E-Manuel in San Francisco; and Bonnie Kahn, a San Francisco writer and sociologist.
In 1992, Fr. Schlegel launched the “Building a Bold Tomorrow” campaign with a goal of raising $75 million. When the campaign ended in 1996, a record $92 million was donated to help finance new academic programs, student scholarships, faculty support, building construction and renovation, and campus landscaping.
Building renovation, construction, and purchases marked Fr. Schlegel’s presidency. The Gleeson Library was transformed by the addition of the Geschke Learning Resource Center. In 1999, Loyola House, a Tuscan-style Jesuit residence on Lone Mountain, was completed, and Xavier Hall, the Jesuits’ residence since 1959, was made available for much-needed student housing. The purchase and renovation of Presentation High School, the new home for the USF School of Education, a project initiated during Fr. Lo Schiavo’s presidency, was completed under Fr. Schlegel. In 1999, ground was broken for the Dorraine Zief Law Library, a state-of-the-art addition to the USF School of Law that opened its doors two months after Fr. Schlegel left office. Plans were also laid for a housing project at the northern edge of Lone Mountain. The student residence complex—named Loyola Village—opened in 2002. Landscaping was also one of the president’s passions and the USF campus underwent a significant physical transformation under his leadership.
In 2000, Fr. Schlegel returned to the Midwest to assume the presidency of Creighton University in Omaha, where he had begun his career in higher education 30 years earlier. In his final Jesuit mission, Fr. Schlegel served as pastor of Church of the Gesu on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee.
A memorial Mass for Fr. Schlegel was celebrated on Dec. 9 at 12:05 p.m. at St. Ignatius Church. USF President Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J., presided.
Memorial contributions may be made to the John P. Schlegel, S.J. Endowed Scholarship at the University of San Francisco, PO Box 45363, San Francisco, CA 94145-0363.