As Stephen Sundborg, S.J., enters his 24th and final year as President of Seattle University, he will be leaving behind a legacy that is as indelible and impactful as it is distinguished, extending beyond the borders of campus. The architect of a mission that is the core of the university and his presidency, Father Sundborg embodies what it means to lead and empower others to lead for a just and humane world.
“Father Steve,” as he is affectionately known, became president in 1997 and today is the state’s longest-serving college president. He 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.
He has received prestigious honors and accolades throughout his presidency, including the Christus Magister Medal from the University of Portland, the Martin Luther King “Vision from the Mountaintop” Award, the Seattle-King County First Citizen Award, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Leadership (CASE) Award and the Campus Compact Engaged Presidential Leadership Award.
Notable achievements during his time leading the university include:
- Developed mission statement in 2003.
- Established Seattle U as consistently among Top 10 universities in the West.
- Transformed campus with construction of a Student Center, residential housing, a performing arts center, a library and learning commons, a fitness center and the Jim and Janet Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation.
- Guided Seattle U Athletics back to Division I.
- Broadened Seattle U’s social justice work through creation of the Center for Community Engagement and the nationally recognized Seattle University Youth Initiative.
- Grew enrollment by 78 percent—to 7,200 students—during his tenure.
In addition to his responsibilities as president, Fr. Sundborg served on the board of United Way of King County, the Independent Colleges of Washington, the Seattle Nativity School and Fulcrum Foundation and as a trustee of Lakeside School, the University of San Francisco, Loyola Marymount University and Georgetown University.
Fr. Sundborg will work with president-elect Eduardo Peñalver during a transition period leading up to his final day in office on June 30, 2021.