St. Bonaventure President dies after battle with COVID-19

Cattaraugus County

OLEAN, N.Y. (WIVB) — The President of St. Bonaventure University has died, following a battle with COVID-19. Dr. Dennis DePerro died while battling COVID-19. His colleagues are remembering the man they say was a great leader, but an even better person.

Provost Dr. Joseph Zimmer, who has been serving as acting president, released a statement to the community, saying Dr. Dennis DePerro had died.

“Words simply can’t convey the level of devastation our campus community feels right now,” Dr. Zimmer said.

Read his full statement here:

“To the campus community:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the news that our friend and the 21st president of St. Bonaventure University, Dr. Dennis DePerro, passed away last night after his battle with COVID-19.

Our hearts are broken, and we send all of our love, support, sympathies and condolences to the DePerro family on their loss, especially Dennis’ wife, Sherry, and his two sons, Andrew and Matthew. Please keep them in your prayers.

In close to four years with us, Dr. DePerro led the university toward the accomplishment of its strategic plan, and he did so in a joyful, Franciscan, collegial and convivial spirit.  Personally, I will miss my boss, whom I met at an interview dinner four years ago, and who quickly became a close and trusted colleague and friend. I know many of you who’ve been blessed to get to know Dennis these past few years feel the same way, considering him a friend as much as our leader.

This is a sad and painful day for our university as we mourn the loss of our president. Our Bonaventure flag will sit at half-staff through the month of March as we accept this shock and make plans to appropriately honor the life and work of Dr. DePerro.  In the meantime, we join Dr. DePerro’s family in grieving and mourning this horrible loss, both to them and to our Bonaventure family.

At its earliest opportunity, the Board of Trustees will convene to begin executing a plan of succession for the University Presidency, and I will continue to serve as acting president to the best of my abilities through the execution of that plan.

If you have any cards or letters for the DePerro family, please send them to Sarah Stangle in the President’s Office.  We will make sure they are delivered to the DePerro family.  Funeral arrangements will be announced as soon as we have them.  Please wait for those to be announced before sending flowers or other memorials.

It is always at these times when St. Bonaventure draws together and mourns together as a community and as a family. Please remember that we always have counseling available through our Wellness Center and pastoral care through our University Ministries.  Do not fail to reach out if you need the help of another to get through this.

May God bless the DePerro family at this difficult time.”

Dr. Joseph Zimmer

Dr. DePerro became the school’s 21st president in June 2017. He tested positive for the virus this past Christmas Eve, and was hospitalized days later.

Here is a statement from Bishop Michael Fisher:

“On behalf of our clergy, diocesan leaders, parishes, and educators, I wish to express our
deepest condolences to the St. Bonaventure University community and the family of Dr.
Dennis DePerro, on the occasion of his untimely passing. Again, we experience how this
dreaded virus has robbed us of so many dedicated, talented and cherished members of
our community. We hold Dr. DePerro and his family in our hearts with abiding gratitude
for all that he made possible in his long and distinguished career. May his enduring
contributions and memory be a blessing and source of comfort, even as we offer gratitude
to God for allowing him to share generously with this community his deep faith, abundant
talents and loyal friendship.”

Bishop Michael Fisher

Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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