Dr. Dennis DePerro, dean of the Purcell School of Professional Studies at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, has been named the 21st president of St. Bonaventure University. He will take office June 1, 2017.
Trustees unanimously selected DePerro on Sunday, Nov. 13, after an eight-month search process that involved more than 70 members of the campus community.
“Dennis is a great fit for St. Bonaventure University. His innovative enrollment efforts, allied health program development, and commitment to the liberal arts in a Catholic setting make him an ideal president,” Daugherty said. “What was gratifying is that, even though we had a couple of very strong finalists, the Board’s decision was unanimous. That’s how much confidence we have in Dr. DePerro.”
DePerro, 57, was vice president for enrollment management at Le Moyne for 18 years before becoming the inaugural dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies in 2013. He helped secure a $6.5 million gift last year for the school, renamed the Kathy and John Purcell School of Professional Studies, which specializes in allied health and education offerings.
St. Bonaventure established a School of Allied Health this fall.
“The Jesuits have had a profound impact on my life, but my foundation is Franciscan,” said DePerro, who attended Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo. “To have the opportunity to lead this remarkable institution is something I never could have imagined as a student at Timon. I’m deeply grateful to the members of the Board of Trustees and those members of the campus community who have extended this measure of faith in me. I’m humbled and honored.”
DePerro has spent his entire 35-year career in college administration; for eight years (1982-1990) in admissions and alumni relations at his alma mater Canisius College, and for five years (1990-1995) as dean of admission and financial aid at Marietta College in Ohio before going to Le Moyne in 1995.
A Buffalo native, DePerro was one of Le Moyne’s first two participants in the inaugural Ignatian Colleagues Program, a national program developed to strengthen lay leadership through formation and focus on Jesuit mission and vision.
“Every single person we heard from was so consistent in talking about the genuine authenticity of the man, his deep belief and his love for the Catholic-Franciscan tradition,” Daugherty said. “I can assure you that, at his core, he is Franciscan. We wanted someone who breathes it, lives it, exudes it — and I think he will do all of that.”
Interim President Dr. Andrew Roth, who took over Aug. 1, 2016, when Sr. Margaret Carney, O.S.F., retired, will work closely with DePerro on a transition plan next spring and summer.
“The trustees made a tremendous choice,” Roth said. “I have every confidence that Dr. DePerro will do a marvelous job for St. Bonaventure. Having spent years serving institutions like Bona’s, he understands what a great institution this is and what an even greater institution it can become.
“Just as important, he has the commitment to mission and academic excellence, appreciation for the work of the faculty and the enrollment team, and administrative savvy that St. Bonaventure both requires and deserves,” Roth said. “I couldn’t be more pleased for the university — its faculty and students, the friars and trustees — on this great choice.”
During DePerro’s 18 years as vice president for enrollment, Le Moyne’s undergraduate enrollment grew from 1,680 to 2,400, while graduate enrollment rose from 390 to 650 over the same period.
DePerro has a doctorate in higher education management (2006) from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in educational administration and supervision (1988) from Canisius, and a bachelor’s in biology from Canisius (1981).
St. Bonaventure utilized the firm Witt-Kiefer to conduct the national search, which began in March with the naming of a 12-person search committee made up of seven trustees and five members of the campus community. Trustees Jim Meyer, ’76, and Les Quick III, ’75, served as co-chairs.
“We had two outstanding chairs in Jim and Les, and a very dedicated and engaged search committee,” Daugherty said. “But we wanted to make sure the process was inclusive and collaborative so it was very important to the Board to listen to the voices of the campus. It was important in this day and age to keep the process confidential to attract the best candidates, but we were still able to involve more than 70 Bonaventure community members in the interviews of the three finalists. I can’t thank them enough for their service and their feedback.”
The Bonaventure community will enjoy working with DePerro, Daugherty said.
“I’m confident he can deal with tough issues, but I think he has a humor about himself that people will really enjoy,” Daugherty said. “I can imagine him in any number of group settings, working a room, from alumni to students. … It really felt like we arrived at a decision that will be great for this university.”
DePerro’s wife, Sherry, is a vice president at Cadaret, Grant and Co., a national financial advisory firm headquartered in Syracuse. They have two sons at Providence College: Andrew, a senior, and Matthew, a freshman.
“St. Bonaventure has made an excellent choice by selecting Dr. DePerro as its next president,” said Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura. “I have had the pleasure of working closely with Dennis over the past 13 years. In his role as vice president for enrollment management and, more recently, as dean of the Purcell School of Professional Studies, he has done a tremendous job advancing the mission of our Jesuit college. Le Moyne’s loss is St. Bonaventure’s gain.”