Considering it an "awesome privilege," Dr. Dennis R. DePerro was formally installed Friday afternoon as the 21st president of St. Bonaventure University.
Almost 1,000 people attended the Inauguration ceremony in the Reilly Center Arena.
DePerro visited St. Bonaventure often when he was a student at Bishop Timon in Buffalo and always dreamed of attending the university as an undergraduate.
"God had other plans for me," said DePerro, a 1981 Canisius College alumnus. "In those plans, however, I could have never imagined, in my wildest dreams, that today I would stand before you as the 21st president of this historically rich and beautiful institution. Words can't express how humbled and honored I am."
Delegates representing more than 50 colleges and universities, three past presidents, faculty, friars, religious sisters, and university trustees, administrators and student leaders took part in the ceremony.
Robert J. Daugherty, chair of the university's Board of Trustees, was the last of 13 speakers to welcome DePerro and had the honor of officially installing him as president by placing St. Bonaventure's presidential medallion around his neck.
"We know Dennis received tremendous guidance and mentorship from the Jesuits at Canisius and Le Moyne. He'd be the first to admit he wouldn't be here today without their belief in him," Daugherty said. "But I can assure you, at his core, he is Franciscan. We wanted someone who breathes it, lives it, exudes it — and I know he will do all of that for us and so much more."
Dr. Gerard Rooney, president of St. John Fisher College and a longtime friend of DePerro's, was effusive in his praise of SBU's new president.
"Today, the St. Bonaventure University community installs a man with abundant gifts, steadfast commitment, and a strong vision," Rooney said. "It is my hope and prayer - and my sincere belief — that he will find purpose for his gifts, and that his tenure as president will be blessed by God's grace."
DePerro looked down the road at what he hopes his legacy at St. Bonaventure will be.
"The legacy I will one day leave as president of this university will probably not be in bricks and mortar, but rather in rebuilding and reinvigorating the infrastructure of this university so it can celebrate its bicentennial and provide a distinctive Catholic Franciscan education for many, many years to come," DePerro said.
An Inauguration Mass, featuring Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone as celebrant, was held Friday morning in the University Chapel.
Inauguration activities began Thursday with a student-driven Day of Action that included service projects on campus and in the community, a fundraiser for BonaResponds, and an awareness campaign and public panel discussion on inadequate local housing.
Students and faculty in the Department of Visual and Performing Arts showcased their musical and theatrical talents Thursday night at the Quick Center for the Arts to honor the president's inauguration.
DePerro took office as president June 1, 2017. Committed to the liberal arts in a Catholic setting, DePerro has spent his entire 35-year career in higher education administration.
He came to St. Bonaventure from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where he served as vice president for enrollment management for 18 years before becoming the inaugural dean of the Purcell School of Professional Studies in 2013. He also served as a professor of management in the Madden School of Business.
DePerro worked for eight years (1982-1990) in admissions and alumni relations at his alma mater Canisius College, and for five years (1990-1995) as dean of admission and financial aid at Marietta College in Ohio before going to Le Moyne in 1995.
DePerro holds a doctorate in higher education management (2006) from the University of Pennsylvania, a master's in educational administration and supervision (1988) from Canisius, and a bachelor's in biology from Canisius (1981). His research has focused on integrated marketing and strategic planning in higher education.
DePerro's wife, Sherry, is a vice president at Cadaret, Grant and Co., a national financial advisory firm headquartered in Syracuse. They have two sons: Andrew, a 2017 graduate of Providence College who now attends Columbia University, and Matthew, a sophomore at Providence.