Former USF President John P. Schlegel, S.J., Passes
Former USF President John P. Schlegel, S.J., passed away Nov. 15, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year. Fr. Schlegel was USF’s 26th president and best known for growing the university’s enrollment, expanding student and faculty diversity, and successfully leading USF’s largest fundraising campaign to that point.
“John accomplished a lot for the university. He was brilliant, strong, and gave of himself to the university, the Society of Jesus, and to many in the USF community,” said Lou Giraudo, who chaired the USF Board of Trustees during Fr. Schlegel’s administration. “Professionally, I enjoyed working with him. Personally, John was beloved by my family and me.”
“Fr. Schlegel was the right person at the right time in USF's history,” said John Koeplin, S.J., rector of the Loyola House Jesuit community. “With faculty, staff, and students, he stressed professionalism in our management of the university's opportunities and challenges in the 1990's. He also encouraged physically beautifying the campus.”
USF grew 7.5 percent to 7,366 students during Fr. Schlegel’s administration from 1991 to 2000. During the same period, the university’s endowment more than tripled to $149 million and student financial aid increased nearly 200 percent.
Three months into his tenure, Fr. Schlegel launched one of his key initiatives, the Multicultural Action Plan, with the aim of enhancing the university’s cultural, ethnic, and racial diversity — which successfully expanded USF’s ethnic diversity to 45 percent from 35 percent, including international students.
Largest fundraising campaign
Fr. Schlegel’s own commitment to multicultural and interfaith understanding is illustrated in the 1997 book Building Wisdom’s House, which he co-authored with William Swing, then the Episcopal bishop of California; Stephen Pearce, then senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco; and Bonnie Kahn, a San Francisco writer and sociologist.
During Fr. Schlegel’s tenure, the Building a Bold Tomorrow fundraising campaign raised $92 million and exceeded the campaign’s $75 million goal, making it USF’s largest campaign in history to that point.
As a result of the campaign’s success, the Gillson, Phelan, Lone Mountain, and Hayes-Healy student residence halls were renovated. Gleeson Library added the Geschke Learning Resource Center, the Pacific Rim Conference Center was completed, and ground was broken on the Tuscan-style Jesuit residence on Lone Mountain. The campaign also funded new academic programs and student scholarships.
A lifetime scholar and educator
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 joined the faculty at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Beginning in 1982, he moved through the administrative ranks of three other Midwestern Jesuit universities. He served as dean of the college of arts and sciences at Rockhurst University, 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, Fr. Schlegel became USF president, succeeding John Lo Schiavo, S.J.
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.