Presidential Transition: My Thoughts and Gratitude

February 13, 2020

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students of Seattle University,

In accordance with our longtime planning, today I submitted to the Board of Trustees a letter indicating my intent to retire from being president of Seattle University June 30, 2021. I do so at this time, 16 months before I step down, in order for the Board to carry out a search for the next president of the university after wide consultation with the university community about the qualities it seeks for leadership in the next era of the university.

I will have served for 24 years, the longest of any of our past presidents, and will be retiring at the age of 77, a dozen years older than any of my predecessors. With recognition of and gratitude for all that we have done together over these many years to further the mission of our university, to educate a whole generation of students, to develop inclusive excellence in how we learn and grow together, to transform our campus, to win new friends to our cause, to strengthen and position our university for success, and to multiply our impact for good in society, it is clear to me that it is time for new leadership for a new era of Seattle University.

There will be opportunities at other moments in the coming months to reflect more fully upon the many accomplishments of these past years that we have together brought about. I am especially proud of the clarity of our mission, our commitment to Jesuit education, the scholarship support we have developed for students, faculty, staff and administrators who have enthusiastically worked together to provide a distinctive education and experience for our students, our community engagement, two very successful capital campaigns and the impact of our growing number of and highly influential alumni.

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. Our new Strategic Directions, with a clear vision of our future and five goals for attaining that vision, are based essentially on the power of Jesuit education and the opportunity of Seattle. While we have our struggles together with all of higher education, no university, I believe, could have greater promise than we do. This calls for new leadership at the presidential level and new collaboration among us across the university of faculty, staff, students, administrators, boards and, increasingly, with alumni.

At this time there are four things I would like to convey. First of all, please know my personal gratitude for your support, your kindness and your forgiveness of my faults. Secondly, please count on my dedication in these coming 16 months to the many things that we will accomplish together—especially the implementation of our strategic directions, the completion of our capital campaign and our placing of the university in a stronger financial position for its promising future. Third, I want to support the university’s process of the choice of the next president and help the transition of that fortunate person. And lastly, I want you to know that whatever I have been able to do I owe to the reality that I am one Jesuit within a Jesuit community living, ministering and supporting one another in our call to service of others. I owe all to being a Jesuit.

With gratitude,

Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
President