Announcement from David Laughlin

January 4, 2017

Dear St. Louis University High School Community,

Happy New Year!

I am writing to update you about our Principal’s position as well to inform you that at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 school year and after 13 years of service as the President, I will be completing my term of service at St Louis University High School.

St. Louis University High School has now completed our search for the position of Principal. I am very pleased to let you know that Jesuit Father Ian Gibbons, SJ will be our next Principal, beginning July 1st, 2017. His selection follows a search process that included many qualified candidates and involved input from our students, parents, faculty and administration as well as our Board of Trustees. I thank the many participants who provided input and feedback in this important process.

Fr. Gibbons, SJ, will be joining us following his current role as the Academic Assistant Principal at Regis High School in New York City. Fr. Gibbons, SJ is a native of the St. Louis metropolitan area and a Jesuit of our Province, the United States Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus. He holds a degree in Economics from Southern Illinois University as well as a Masters in Business Administration from SIU. He also holds a Masters Degree in American Studies from Saint Louis University, a Masters Degree in Divinity from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology at Boston College and a Masters Degree in Catholic School Leadership from the Institute for Catholic School Leadership from the Jesuit University of San Francisco. Prior to his current service at Regis High School in New York City, Fr. Gibbon’s, SJ, ministry includes teaching Economics at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver, Colorado; Director of Campus Ministry at Rockhurst Jesuit High School in Kansas City, Missouri; Assistant to the President of Strake Jesuit High School in Houston, Texas.

We look forward to welcoming Fr. Gibbons, SJ as our Principal in July of 2017.

I am also writing to let you know that at the conclusion of the 2017-2018 school year, I will be completing my term as the President of St. Louis University High School. I have always been honored to be our President and look forward to a continued year and half in service to our mission and community. I am grateful to the Society of Jesus for allowing me to work within their educational ministries over many years and in multiple capacities. I am glad to continue to serve the Society of Jesus as I will assume the President’s role at Rockhurst Jesuit High School in Kansas City in July of 2018. I have also been privileged to work alongside great men and women who have been members of our Board of Trustees. Their personal commitment to and sacrifice for St. Louis U. High has shaped me personally and has always been a great guiding hand for the purpose and direction of SLUH. Mr. Tom Santel, Chairman of our Board of Trustees, has been working with the Provincial’s Office of the Society of Jesus and will be in communication with our community regarding the search process for the next President of SLUH, who will begin in July of 2018.

I wish to express my profound gratitude to Mr. Craig Hannick, who is serving as our interim Principal for the 2016-2017 school year. Together, with our veteran Assistant Principals and Directors, Mr. Hannick is serving as a tremendous leader to allow the school not just to maintain our standard of excellence, but also to create continuity and progress on many strategic initiatives operational within our school. And to be certain, as a man of Catholic faith known to our community, Mr. Hannick has extended the presence of his ministry in many places this year, whether establishing our theme of Human Dignity or being present at a multitude of school activities and personal pastoral moments along the way. I also wish to extend my thanks to his wife Peggy and their family for their flexibility during this school year. Mr. Hannick exemplifies the wonderful faculty we have working with your sons at St. Louis University High School. As we continue our second semester, I am most grateful for his leadership and the leadership of his team in care of our school.

I am thankful for the gift of our young men at St. Louis University High School. May God bless them and all in our community.

Wishing you all the best for 2017!

God bless,

David J. Laughlin
St. Louis University High School

President Announcement from Tom Santel

January 4, 2017

Dear Members of the St. Louis University High School Community,

For over 11 years, we at St. Louis U. High have been fortunate to have David Laughlin as our President. During Dave’s tenure – the longest in the history of Backer Memorial – the school has made tremendous spiritual, academic, physical and financial progress. As is typical of Dave’s care and thoughtfulness, he is providing SLUH with 18 months’ notice in advance of his departure to ensure that he and our board can continue to implement the school’s strategic plan and that we have a smooth and orderly transition to a new president. We will continue to benefit from his leadership until July 1, 2018 when he begins his new assignment as the President of Rockhurst High School.

In 2005, SLUH hired Dave as its first lay president, but he quickly became one of the school’s strongest models of Jesuit spirituality, constantly demonstrating what it means to be a “man for others." While we will have ample time to properly celebrate and give thanks for Dave’s years at SLUH, here is just a partial list of the accomplishments that have occurred during his presidency:

  • Added a Freshman Class retreat and is now in the process of expanding retreat program to all students
  • Grew endowment from $30M to $40M, overcoming a $7M drop in the 2008 recession
  • Reduced debt from $21.5M to $12M
  • Oversaw $18M of new construction: Danis Fieldhouse, Si Commons, Campus Ministry offices and new Jesuit residence
  • Added an Admissions office and maintained enrollment above 1,000 students despite a challenging recruiting environment
  • Quadrupled financial aid, increased diversity in enrollment and significantly slowed the rate of tuition increases in recent years
  • Expanded the curriculum and increased average SAT and ACT scores
  • Transformed development operations from a primarily local outreach program into a national one
  • Involved a broad set of stakeholders in a comprehensive process (“Imagining 18”) that resulted in a strategic plan that will keep SLUH affordable for all who are qualified, bring our 93 year old main building up to date and realign the school’s curriculum for the needs of the 21st century
  • Significantly expanded the Counseling and Campus Ministry Programs
  • Kept faculty compensation competitive and won recognition as a “Top Workplace” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch four years in a row

Clearly, Dave will leave a significant legacy of achievement at SLUH that will benefit the school for years to come. What we will miss most, however, is the care and attention he brings to every person and every situation he encounters. Whether he is participating in liturgies, connecting with parents and alums, meeting with faculty, visiting the sick, comforting grieving families, or cheering on our students at athletic contests, Dave gives tirelessly of himself every day.

We are also grateful for all that Dave’s wife, Kelly has done for St. Louis U. High. Besides putting up with the long workdays and constant interruptions that accompany the president’s job, she has spent countless hours in service to the school. Dave would be the first to admit that her intelligence, humor and cheerful presence have been key ingredients to the success of his presidency.

We are forming a search committee to begin the process of finding a new president, one who will build on Dave’s legacy, just as he built on the work of his predecessors, to move St. Louis University High School to higher levels of excellence. We will work in close cooperation with the Jesuits’ Central and Southern Province Office as we proceed with our search. Both the Provincial and the school’s Board of Trustees must approve our final candidate.

With tremendous gratitude for David Laughlin and all he has given to SLUH, and with confidence in our future, we look forward to welcoming a new president in 2018 who will work with all of us to write the next chapter in the exciting story that is St. Louis University High School.

May God bless Dave, his family, and everyone in the SLUH community who contributes to the important work of educating our young men.


Tom Santel ‘76
Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Statement from Very Rev. Ronald Mercier, S.J.

Provincial of the Jesuits of the U.S. Central and Southern Province

“Mr. Laughlin has consistently served SLUH very well, not only building on the strong and well-balanced program he inherited but also taking responsibility for advancing the Jesuit character and mission of the school. As the first lay president of the school, he has blazed a trail not only at SLUH but for high school presidents throughout the province. He exemplifies the gift God gives the Society of Jesus through the men and women with whom we work. I am very grateful that I will still be able to rely upon him as a trusted colleague, though now in Kansas City rather than St. Louis.”