New St. John’s president Conrado Gempesaw described as ‘humble, down-to-earth’On July 1, Conrado Gempesaw, Ph.D. became the 17th president of St. John’s University in Queens, the first lay person to hold the position in this Catholic university in Queens.
He succeeds Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M., who became interim president after a 2013 corruption scandal led to the resignation of long-time president Rev. Donald Harrington and the suicide of a university fundraiser. Reports say it took St. John’s more than a year to find a successor to Father Levesque.
Two weeks after the announcement was made, Gempesaw – known as ‘Bobby’ to friends and academic colleagues — paid a courtesy call on Consul General Mario De Leon, Jr. Both gentlemen are alumni of the Ateneo University. Gempesaw has a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Ateneo de Davao University. He has a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from The Pennsylvania State University, and a Master of Science degree in agricultural economics from West Virginia University, according to the university website.
Before joining St. John’s, Gempesaw was provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he was largely credited for leading efforts to increase international enrollment and global partnerships, among many initiatives. He has more than three decades of academic experience.
Gempesaw also held academic positions at the University of Delaware before leaving his role as Dean of the Lerner College of Business and Economics when he moved to Miami.
“In Dr. Gempesaw, we have found a visionary leader who understands and embraces St. John’s mission as a Catholic and Vincentian university, and has the skills necessary to realize our goals for the future,” said the university 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.”
Community leaders who have met Gempesaw during a July 11 birthday celebration for Consul General de Leon at Tito Rad’s Restaurant in Queens said they saw a “quiet and humble” man.
“He did not personify to me a man who is occupying a position of high level in the field of education. He seemed down-to-earth and personable,” said retired public school teacher Lumen Castaneda, who is also the founder of the United Federation of Fil-Am Educators or UNIFFIED.
Gempesaw and his wife, Clavel Albay, have two sons, Daniel and David.
Daniel has Bachelor of Science degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware, and a Master of Science degree from Georgia Tech; while David is currently a graduate student at Miami University. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and finance from the University of Delaware.
Clavel Albay Gempesaw has a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in urban affairs and public policy from the University of Delaware.
“He and the wife, Clavel, are both so soft-spoken and very friendly, obliging everyone for a picture,” said Castaneda. — Cristina DC Pastor