ST. LOUIS • More than three years after he retired, and a year after he was recalled to Chicago, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi is back.
Well, at least he is part time, between St. Louis and Chicago.
Biondi rejoins St. Louis University, where he presided for 25 years, to help with international student recruitment and fundraising with donors with whom he has a close relationship, according to a SLU spokesman.
Rumors of Biondi’s return have swirled for weeks. Wednesday night, he shared his new role while glad-handing with SLU fans at the men’s basketball game.
It’s a part-time role, as Biondi is still missioned to the Midwest Jesuits in Chicago, SLU spokesman Clayton Berry said in an email. Biondi will not be getting a salary, Berry said.
Biondi retired in September 2013 but remained on campus until last summer. He lobbied to stay in St. Louis, hoping for a continued role at SLU, before he was sent to Chicago.
His departure was a polarizing issue for the SLU community. Several donors withdrew support because they felt he was treated unfairly.
St. Louis private investor and SLU donor Tom Danis was one of those people.
Danis hasn’t donated to the university since Biondi left, and he’s not sure if he will.
“I’m glad they finally recognized his value,” he said. “He and I speak regularly, and he has always been positive about the university and his involvement.”
But apparently not everyone on campus is thrilled about the former president’s new role. Current SLU President Fred Pestello fielded questions about Biondi's return from faculty during a few meetings this past week.
Biondi is returning amid a budget crisis at SLU that will inevitably lead to layoffs this semester. SLU leaders said the operating budget fell into a $16 million deficit this past fiscal year, and the trend is projected to continue the next few years unless something changes.
Between budget cuts and new revenue, including fundraising, the goal is to find $40 million to $80 million to avoid additional cuts in a few years.
Multiple sources said some donors who support Biondi are upset it has taken this long for him to be given a fundraising role. Those sources say Biondi had a contract for years that stipulated that when he retired, he would maintain a fundraising role.
Biondi will have an office on campus and is expected to take his first international recruiting trip next month. A dinner honoring his career is also planned on campus in April.
Biondi was unavailable for comment Thursday.