Chatting with Fred Pestello, SLU’s president, as the school approaches its 200th birthday

Sep 15, 2017
Originally published on September 18, 2017 3:22 pm

In November 2018, Saint Louis University, the oldest university west of the Mississippi, will mark its 200th year in higher education. It is the second oldest Jesuit university in the United States. SLU is kicking off celebrations a little bit early, starting this Saturday

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh was joined by Fred Pestello, the president of the university, to look back on the history of the institution and discuss plans for the future. Pestello has been president of the university since June of 2014. 

"First medical school in the American west, first law department west of the Mississippi, first forward pass in football, first federally-certified flight school, first human heart transplant in the Midwest and first location of the National Campus Kitchen project, those are some of the things of which we are proud," Pestello said. "My predecessors showed wise stewardship of our property, in terms of the art, our building, beautifying the campus. You'll see an enormous amount of investment, particularly the areas between our north and south campuses over the next five years."

Pestello said the school expects to invest over $1 billion into the area over the next five years.

Pestello also discussed the university's role as a place of protest, after the police shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. in 2014 and, more recently, after the Jason Stockley verdict.

"Our students were very much a part of the protests and a number did demonstrate on our campus yesterday evening," Pestello said. " ... In my position, I have the opportunity to talk to people across the entire strata in our region and on our campus and there's deep puzzlement, hurt, feeling that evil is being done, on the part of many how crushing this is."

He also said he had met with his administration this morning to discuss how to phrase alerts about protests on campus. A SLU professor noted that the alert sent out yesterday encouraged students to stay inside in the event protests were violent. 

On the program, Pestello also addressed the competition institutions of higher education face when it comes to providing on-campus amenities, who can afford to go to college and post-Ferguson enrollment.

"It is clear there are some concerns about St. Louis that can suppress the overall applicant pool both nationally and internationally," Pestello said. " ... It is on us to partner with all other sectors to tackle those issues that were raised in the Ferguson Commission report, those issues that we are the most serious and need of addressing as recently brought to light by the reaction to this [Stockley] verdict."

Listen to the full discussion here:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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