After serving as the university’s president for the past 24 years, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., will join next year’s graduating class at commencement in June of 2021 and step into the next chapter of his life. “Father Steve” as he is affectionately known, became president in 1997 and today is the state’s longest-serving college president. Fr. Sundborg was ordained a priest in Seattle in 1974 and completed his doctoral studies in spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1982. He taught theology at Seattle University from 1982 to 1990 and served as provincial of the Northwest Jesuits from 1990 to 1996.
During his presidency, the Seattle University campus has been transformed physically with construction of, among other facilities, a student center, a law school, residential housing, a center for the performing arts, a library and learning commons and a fitness center. A new Center for Science and Innovation will open in fall 2021. Under his leadership, enrollment has grown 78 percent to almost 7,200 students, as the university has strengthened its academic programs, more deeply engaged with community partners and developed an educational mission that forms leaders for a just and humane world.
Fr. Sundborg initiated strategic opportunities for Seattle University to carry out its mission, championing endeavors such as the Costco Scholarship Fund for highly qualified underrepresented students and the Seattle University Youth Initiative to strengthen education and support systems for 1,000 local youth while providing community-engaged learning for students.
As Seattle University’s longest serving president, he has signed diplomas for more than 45,000 of the university’s alumni. He often speaks of the important role the alumni play, saying that the way they live their lives is the best measure of whether Seattle U is achieving its mission.
A search committee was announced with the goal of identifying Fr. Sundborg’s successor by this November. Fr. Sundborg will work with the new president during a transition period leading up to his final day in office on June 30, 2021.
In his message to the Seattle University community, Fr. Sundborg said, “I believe it is better at this time to look forward to the opportunity that lies ahead for the university. In my view there is no better or more needed education for today and tomorrow than our kind of Jesuit education in our dynamic city and region. We are 'Seattle’s Jesuit university,' a powerful educational formula, drawing on the resources of both the world’s most renowned educational tradition and one of the world’s most dynamic and future-focusing metropolitan areas.”
In a separate message to the university community, Nicole W. Piasecki, chair of the Board of Trustees, said, “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I would like to thank Father Sundborg for the unprecedented impact he has had on our university. Under his leadership, Seattle University has grown and flourished, consistently rising in national and regional rankings.”
Piasecki also announced the appointment of a Presidential Search Committee to oversee the search process. The committee will be charged with conducting the search and presenting recommended finalists to the Board. The committee includes Trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Jesuit community.