Two standing ovations greeted Jesuit Father Lawrence Biondi as a stretch of Grand Boulevard that fronts Saint Louis University’s campus was honorarily renamed “Father Biondi, SJ Way” on May 22 for the role he played in reshaping the Midtown area and the university.
SLU’s Board of Trustees and members of the Father Biondi Recognition Committee held the event to honor SLU’s longest-serving president, who retired in 2013 after serving 27 years in the role. In addition, a plaza at the Madrid campus is being named for him. More than 200 people attended, with three rows of people standing behind the seating set up for the event.
Father Biondi currently serves as president emeritus and assists with fundraising and international student recruitment at SLU. He is in the Jesuits’ USA Midwest Province and resides in Chicago.
Five leaders from the St. Louis and SLU community spoke, and Archbishop Robert J. Carlson gave an invocation, stating that the university has helped students grown in faith and knowledge for 200 years. Father Biondi, the Archbishop said, generously shared his gifts and talents and expanded the university’s footprint and academic opportunities.
Joseph Conran, chairman of the SLU Board of Trustees and a parishioner of St. Gerard Majella in Kirkwood, told stories of Father Biondi’s dedication and the “remarkable transformation” he led of the campus, enrollment and endowment.
Under Father Biondi’s leadership, Saint Louis University completed fundraising and capital campaigns totaling more than $785 million; invested an estimated $850 million in improvements, enhancements and expansions; increased the size of SLU’s Midtown campus from 113 acres with 62 buildings to 268 acres with 131 buildings; and increased its endowment from $93 million in 1987 to $1.2 billion. Under his watch, in 2011, SLU also established the SLU Jesuit Community Scholarships for local Catholic high school students.
Father Biondi told of the highlights of his tenure, helping to “strengthen, renovate and engage SLU as a vibrant Jesuit, Catholic university.” He sought to fulfill the university’s mission statement, which is simple to understand but difficult to implement each day, he said, and “work for the common good of society.”
With the help of city government leaders, including aldermen Marlene Davis and Joe Roddy, the area is being marked by street signs, underwritten by supporters of Father Biondi. The signs will hang next to Grand Boulevard signs between Lafayette Avenue and Lindell Boulevard. Addresses of buildings along the stretch will continue to be listed as Grand Boulevard.
One of the Father Biondi, SJ Way signs in the median near DuBourg Hall was unveiled by a contractor in a utility bucket truck.