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Seattle University announces Peñalver as next president, taking over for ‘Father Steve’

Peñalver (Image: Seattle University)

Eduardo Peñalver, currently the dean of Cornell Law School and a Puyallup native, will return to the Pacific Northwest to replace Father Stephen Sundborg as president at Seattle University, the private Jesuit school serving around 7,000 students from its campus on the south end of Capitol Hill.

Peñalver will become the university’s 22nd president, its first Latino president, and the first layperson to take the helm since Seattle University was founded in 1891, the school said.

“I am so grateful to join Seattle University, excited about its future and looking forward to working with all of the faculty, staff, students and alumni of Seattle University to bring that future into being,” Peñalver said in the school’s announcement. “It is an honor to follow Father Steve, who has expertly steered the university these past two-plus decades and for the opportunity to build upon the solid foundation he has laid.”

Sundborg’s 24-year tenure will end after the current academic year. CHS reported on his decision to step down an the start of a search for a new president earlier this year.

Peñalver will shepherd a growing university. 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 has planned 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.

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

But COVID-19 has radically shifted the environment for all levels of education as Seattle U continues providing mostly remote instruction to its students. It describes its fall 2020 plan as “a primarily virtual learning format with some in person and hybrid classes.” The school has recorded 10 positive cases among students, faculty, and staff since the start of instruction in September.


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