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Seattle University begins search for new leader

Sundborg (Image: Seattle University)

Seattle University has announced it has begun a search for a new leader.

The private Jesuit university just south of Capitol Hill announced Thursday that longtime president Stephen Sundborg will step down from his post at end of the school year in June 2021.

“A comprehensive and inclusive national search is underway for the 22nd president of Seattle University,” the school’s announcement reads. “In February, the Board of Trustees approved the Presidential Search Committee to oversee a process that will actively engage, and seek input from, the university community. The next president of SU will guide the institution in its strategic directions and continued emergence as one of the most innovative and progressive Jesuit and Catholic universities in the world.”

The school employs more than 500 full-time and another 200 or so part-time faculty.

By the end of his run Sundborg will have led the campus for 24 years and into yet another period of major growth. The school’s new Center for Science and Innovation is currently under construction on 12th Ave. The new building will also house the university’s Center for Community Engagement, which runs the Seattle University Youth Initiative. The building will also make it more obvious that there’s an active university campus in a way similar to the opening of the new college store at the corner on Madison shows off to the community as well as the school’s project to create a 10-story mixed dorm and offices building on E Madison.

The burst of development is part of a wave of growth for the school. By 2028, the school plans to expand its boundaries by 2.4 acres with 2 million square feet added to the campus in new development. The university expects the $105 million center to be open in time for the fall quarter of 2021.

From off campus, the view of Sundborg’s recent years as president makes the role look like a tough job. Recent controversies include student media and drag, faculty unionization, allegations of campus racism, and, gasp, off leash dogs.

In addition to the campus growth, Sundborg’s legacy might be most tied to college athletics. In the 1990s he led the way as Seattle U began the process of restoring the university’s NCAA membership.

“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,” Sundborg writes in his message to staff and students on his decision to step down. “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.”

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