The Sacred & the Profane

Father Lawrence Biondi is praised for revamping the campus of St. Louis University and boosting its endowment. But the enemies he's made along the way claim that behind the fountains, statues and donations stands a Jesuit bully who's more interested in th

It's not just money that matters, but it counts for something.
"My response to that is that our endowment is the highest of any Jesuit institution right now," says Tucci. "The reason for that is Father being able to network like he has. I would think you have to travel in those circles."

Former St. Louis Ald. Jack Garvey, a SLU graduate and currently an associate circuit judge, thinks Biondi's temperament and performance are just what the university needed.

"Biondi has been great for the school. He's a guy who gets the job done. He is the perfect fit for an urban university. You need to be like that in order to do what a school in that location has to do," Garvey says. A university president might get by without street smarts, he says, "if he was at a college in the middle of the woods, maybe. But he's in the middle of the 18th-largest metropolitan area in the country, in the middle of an urban area that is less than desirable. The tools he has as a person are necessary."

And despite the complaints, the boundaries of the campus have been better defined by Biondi and the endowment has improved dramatically, largely through the sale of the hospital. Again, one observer who preferred not to be named says Biondi will be backed by alumni for one basic reason.

"The St. Louie U. crowd, especially from the law school, have always seemed like St. Louie U. played second fiddle to Wash U. I think a lot of the St. Louie U. grads and alums who are so in support of him are in support of him because it makes the university look better. To the extent the university's reputation improves, it improves the reputation of their credential."

The fountains, the fences, the statues, the endowment. Whether it's a person or a university, looks and money count for a lot, and for many they can cover a lot of flaws.

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