St. John's University trustees found a new president in Conrado M. Gempesaw, a longtime university administrator and the provost of Miami University in Ohio, officials announced Thursday.
Gempesaw, 60, will take the helm of the Queens-based university as its 17th president beginning July 1. He is the first lay person to lead the 144-year-old Catholic institution.
He will succeed the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, who came to the 21,000-student university as interim president last summer after the school's longtime leader, the Rev. Donald Harrington, stepped down. Harrington had admitted receiving lavish gifts from a former dean who killed herself during a 2012 federal fraud trial.
Peter D'Angelo, chairman of the board who helped lead the presidential search committee, said Gempesaw has "an impressive record of academic achievement, administrative excellence, and the ability to inspire students, faculty, alumni and administrators."
"In Dr. Gempesaw, we have found a visionary leader who . . . has the skills necessary to realize our goals for the future," D'Angelo said in a statement.
Gempesaw holds a doctorate in agricultural economics from Penn State University; a master's degree from West Virginia University; and a bachelor's degree from Ateneo de Davao University in the Philippines.
Before joining Miami University, Gempesaw held several positions at the University of Delaware, including dean of the college of business and dean of the college of arts and sciences.
St. John's conducted a national search while Levesque served as temporary leader. The school created a 13-person search committee and hired a consulting firm to assist in recruiting candidates.
"I am deeply honored to have been chosen to lead St. John's University during this transformational time, and grateful for the confidence and support of everyone who participated in the search process," Gempesaw said in a statement.
Last August, a university investigation found former president Harrington and his chief of staff, Rob Wile, committed "errors in judgment" that led to conflicts of interest -- but no criminal wrongdoing.
Harrington and Wile became the subjects of an investigative series in New York Magazine that detailed financial improprieties at the university, including a real estate deal the two men had together and $370,000 in interest-free loans Wile received from the school.
The publication raised the question of whether the men ignored inappropriate actions by Cecilia Chang, dean and head of the Asian studies program, because she had raised some $20 million for the university.
Chang, 59, was found dead in her Jamaica Estates home in November 2012, a day after she testified in her own defense on charges of embezzling $1 million and using foreign students as her personal servants.
Neither D'Angelo nor Gempesaw were available for interviews Thursday, a university official said.