St. Bonaventure president dies of COVID-19 at age 62

Mar 1, 2021

St. Bonaventure University on Monday announced the overnight death of its president, Dennis DePerro, due to complications from COVID-19. He was 62.

“Words simply can’t convey the level of devastation our campus community feels right now,” said Joseph Zimmer, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, who was named acting president late last month while DePerro. “I know when people die it’s become cliché to say things like, ‘He was a great leader, but an even better human being,’ and yet, that’s the absolute truth with Dennis. We are heartbroken.”

DePerro was admitted to a Syracuse hospital Dec. 29 after testing positive for the coronavirus on Christmas Eve and placed on a ventilator in mid-January. University officials said the St. Bonaventure flag will fly at half-staff in his honor through March.

Credit St. Bonaventure University

"Dennis DePerro brought a background of skills honed over the years that made him the perfect candidate at the time he was selected," said President Emeritus Sr. Margaret Carney. "In addition to the skills one finds on a resume, he brought the soul-full commitment to the Franciscan mission of St. Bonaventure. Such a clear understanding of the soul of the university was, I believe, his greatest gift."

A Buffalo native and graduate of Bishop Timon High School, DePerro spent his entire 39-year career in college administration. He became the 21st president of the Franciscan university on June 1, 2017. In less than four years, officials said he welcomed the three largest incoming freshman classes in the last 11 years, and the university’s online graduate initiative increased 329% in enrollment.

“I know we believed when we hired Dennis that we made the right choice, but there’s no question he exceeded our wildest expectations,” said John Sheehan, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees at the time. “To see the position he’s put us in, through his collaborative nature with trustees, administrators, faculty and students, will forever be a testament to his remarkable leadership."

Prior to St. Bonaventure, DePerro served as a professor of management, dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies and vice president for enrollment management at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. He also worked in admissions and alumni relations at his alma mater Canisius College, and as dean of admission and financial aid at Marietta College in Ohio before going to Le Moyne in 1995.

DePerro leaves a wife, Sherry, and two sons, Andrew and Matthew. Services have not yet been announced.