Message from the Chair of the Board of Trustees: President Sundborg's Intent to Retire

February 13, 2020

Dear Members of the Seattle University Community,

Father Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., today formally announced his decision to step down as President of Seattle University in June 2021, after completing his 24th year of service.

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.

Enrollment has increased by 78 percent to nearly 7,200 students during Father Sundborg’s presidency. More than half a billion dollars in philanthropic support has been raised to strengthen Seattle U. The campus has been transformed with construction of a student center, a law school, residential housing, a center for the performing arts, a library and learning commons, a fitness center and the Center for Science and Innovation, which will open in fall 2021. We have made significant improvements to our athletics and co-curricular programs, contributing to the positive image and success of our institution.

Most importantly, Father Sundborg has imbued our university community with a clear sense of purpose, anchored by our Jesuit Catholic tradition and a paramount commitment to putting students at the center of our shared work. The mission statement he personally articulated in 2003, dedicating Seattle U to educating the whole person, to professional formation and to empowering leaders for a just and humane world, has inspired and galvanized the entire Seattle U community.

Father Sundborg’s leadership has deepened our commitment to diversity and inclusion with such initiatives as the Costco Scholars program. He has guided Seattle U in responding to the leading issues of our day, including the climate crisis. Under Father Sundborg’s leadership, our Center for Community Engagement and the Seattle University Youth Initiative are connecting Seattle U as never before to our neighborhood and community. These efforts have received national awards and recognition and speak to Father Sundborg’s commitment to living our Jesuit educational mission.

Father Sundborg’s impact is known and valued beyond our campus. He has served on and led multiple boards, striving to advance higher education and contribute to the greater good. For his tireless work he has received numerous awards, most recently as the Seattle-King County First Citizen.

We are grateful and fortunate that Father Sundborg will be leading us through June 2021. This is a critical time for Seattle U as we begin to implement the recently approved strategic directions. We have a clear vision of our future and five goals for attaining that vision, based on the power of Jesuit education and the opportunities we have in Seattle. In the months ahead, we will be completing our capital campaign to strengthen our financial position. These efforts will continue to benefit from Father Sundborg’s exceptional guidance as we transition to new leadership.

And as we make this transition, Father Sundborg has expressed his commitment to ensure that it is seamless. By announcing his decision now, Father Sundborg is affording us the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive and inclusive national search for the next president.

As Chair of the Board of Trustees, I have appointed a Presidential Search Committee to oversee the search process. The Board approved the committee membership at its meeting today. This committee will be charged with conducting the search and presenting recommended finalists to the Board of Trustees. It will be led by John H. Vassall, MD, a current trustee, and Betty Woods, ’74, former Board Chair and a longtime Seattle U supporter. The committee represents trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni and the Jesuit community. This will bring the diversity of background and experience needed to effectively evaluate candidates and assure that we best serve the issues in higher education that will matter most to Seattle University in the future.

We expect to conclude the presidential search process by November 2020. The entire university community will have multiple opportunities to be involved in this process, which will be enriched by such collaboration and contributions. In the near term, we will be reaching out through open forums and other modes to university stakeholders to ask for feedback on the skills, experiences and qualities critical to the role of our next president. This input will inform the leadership profile provided to prospective candidates.

We have created a presidential search website to keep the community informed. This website will include the leadership profile, relevant university communications, progress updates and more. We hope you will visit the site, check back often and help us sustain an energetic dialogue throughout the process.

I speak for the Board in expressing profound gratitude to Father Sundborg for his immeasurable contribution to Seattle U and his exceptional and continued leadership. We are excited about this momentous transition as we thoughtfully prepare for the exciting opportunities ahead. Thank you for your dedication and commitment to Seattle University and its mission. I look forward to our continued work together.

Sincerely yours,

Nicole W. Piasecki
Chair, Seattle University Board of Trustees


Presidential Search Committee Members

  • Betty Woods, '74
    Co-Chair, Former SU Board Chair
    President & CEO, Premera Blue Cross (Retired)
  • John Vassall, MD
    Co-Chair, SU Trustee
    CEO, Foundation for Health Care Quality
  • Kevin O’Brien, S.J.
    SU Trustee, President, Santa Clara University
  • Maureen Benoliel, '71
    SU Trustee, Community Volunteer
  • Patrick J. Callans
    SU Trustee, Executive Vice President, Costco Wholesale
  • Brenda Christensen, MBA '81
    SU Trustee, Strategic Advisor and Board Member, Emerging Companies
  • Charles H. Porter
    SU Trustee, Information Technology Executive
  • Timothy P. Leary, PhD
    Executive Vice President
  • Annette Clark, MD, JD '89
    Dean, Seattle University School of Law
  • Rubiná Mahsud, PhD
    Associate Professor, Albers School of Business & Economics
  • Frank J. Shih, PhD
    Associate Professor, College of Science & Engineering
  • Jennifer Schulz, PhD
    Senior Instructor, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Johnica Hopkins, MA
    Academic Advisor, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Megan Lemieux Bell, '95
    Alumni Board of Governors
  • Abem Fekade-Tessema
    Undergraduate Student, Albers School of Business & Economics
  • Jose Armando Munguia
    Graduate Student, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Mary S. Petersen, JD
    VP and University Counsel/Corporation Secretary (ex officio)
  • Anne Moran
    Senior Assistant to the President, Administrative Support