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SLU mourns loss of former president Paul C. Reinert, S.J.

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Paul C. Reinert, S.J., chancellor emeritus and past president of Saint Louis University, died Sunday, July 22 after a brief illness. He was 90.

Reinert served as president of the University from 1949 to 1974. It was under his leadership that SLU became an institution of national stature and a vital part of life in the greater St. Louis area.

The effect that Fr. Reinert had on students did not end with his reign as University president.

Carrie Mungenast, a University senior, knew Reinert through her grandparents, good friends of the former University president.

“Fr. Reinert was an amazing part of this University, and I knew he had been sick,” she said. “He will be greatly missed by many people here.”

Tricia Fechter, a junior at SLU, knew Reinert through her grandfather. “When I started at SLU in the fall of ’99, my cousin and I started meeting with Fr. Reinert about once a semester just to talk and catch up on what was going on at SLU and in our lives,” she said.

Fechter has fond memories of Reinert, recalling that he was always very gentle. “He always remembered our names, even if we hadn’t seen him in six months.”

The news of his passing did surprise Fechter. “I had noticed in April, at my last visit with him, that his health was declining and that he was spending less and less time in the office, but the news of his passing did surprise me,” she said. “He seemed like a man that could live to be 120!”

“Fr. Reinert was a great man, who left behind many physical gifts at Saint Louis University,” Fechter continued. “However, I think that his personality and his smile will be most missed.”

Reinert was born Aug. 12, 1910, in Boulder, Colo. In 1927, he moved to Florissant, Mo., where he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1940. Two of Reinert’s brothers, James and Carl, also became Jesuit priests.

He had earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degree from SLU by 1934. He earned his licentiate in sacred theology in 1941 also from SLU. He earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1944.

Reinert returned to SLU in 1944 to become the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He then became academic vice president, and one year later, in 1949, he was named the University’s 27th president at the age of 39-one of the nation’s youngest college presidents at the time.

During his presidency, the University grew greatly. More than $150 million was spent to improve and modernize SLU’s campus. It was during his presidency that the University’s student center, Busch Memorial Center, was constructed. The groundbreaking ceremony drew a number of dignitaries, including President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Other accomplishments during Reinert’s 25-year span as University president include: the largest student enrollment in University history up to that time, the first female students registered in the College of Arts and Sciences and the construction of more than 10 new buildings, including Pius XII Memorial Library.

Due to his active role in the revitalization of Midtown, Reinert received the St. Louis Award in 1972, the city’s most prestigious award.

He was called to Washington, D.C, on several occasions concerning his involvement with the education movement.

First, in 1955, he was a member of Missouri’s delegation to the White House Conference on Education, and a year later President Dwight. D. Eisenhower appointed him to his Education Beyond the High School committee.

Then again, in 1961, he was called to Washington to discuss the newly established Peace Corps with its director. This was due to the fact that SLU would train many of the Corps personnel.

In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Reinert to serve on his Task Force on Education and his Task Force on Urban Educational Opportunities.

Reinert also served on President Richard Nixon’s educational task force in 1968.

Reinert also served as an author for important works that examine higher education. The Urban Catholic University was published in 1970. To Turn the Tide, published in 1972, offered measures to guarantee the survival of the nation’s pluralistic system of higher education.

Reinert wrote again, in 1996, Seasons of Change: Reflections on a Half Century at Saint Louis University. This work was co-authored with SLU professor Dr. Paul Shore.

Seasons gave Reinert the opportunity to share his 50 years of Saint Louis University memories and recollections.

Reinert has the distinction of being one of the longest tenured university presidents in the country. Reinert became chancellor in 1974 to devote more time to strengthening the many forms of support for Saint Louis University and to enhancing midtown St. Louis. However, Reinert remained as close to students, faculty and staff as he was during his presidency.

In 1977, he received the first award given by the Academy of Educational Development, chaired by former President Gerald Ford, to recognize his major contribution to the solution of critical problems in higher education.

Reinert received the Right Arm of St. Louis Award from the Regional Chamber and Growth Association in 1987. The award was for “unfailing dedication to the betterment of the St. Louis region.”

In 1990, Reinert was named chancellor emeritus. He also was granted nearly 40 honorary degrees from universities around the country including Washington University, Loyola University and Creighton University.

He received the Sword of Ignatius Loyola from Saint Louis University in 1990. The Sword is the top award given by the University to an individual who has made significant achievements to benefit humankind.

Reinert Hall, one of the University’s residence halls, is named in his honor, in addition to the Reinert Center for Teaching Excellence.

Reinert is survived by his brother George Reinert, S.J., of Denver, Colo., and several nieces and nephews.

Reinert chose to donate his body to the Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center in order to further scientific research.

A memorial mass was celebrated Thursday, July 26, at St. Francis Xavier College Church, during which John Padberg, S.J. delivered a heartfelt eulogy. University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. served as celebrant.

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SLU mourns loss of former president Paul C. Reinert, S.J.