St. John’s University’s long-time president will resign this summer, according to an internal memo to the school.
Father Donald J. Harrington said in a letter to the school’s community that he plans on retiring effective July 31.
Harrington, who took over at St. John’s in 1989, has been wrapped up in a series of investigations by both federal authorities and the board of trustees. He was alleged in federal complaints to have received lavish gifts from the late Cecilia Chang, a former St. John’s dean who charged with stealing money from the school.
He only makes slight mention of the probes during the last year.
“Nonetheless, for quite a while, I have been thinking about when would be the best time to relinquish the leadership role to younger, perhaps more energetic, individuals,” he writes. “The urgings of many members of the Board of Trustees and others persuaded me to remain longer than I had originally planned. But the difficulties for everyone during the past year have convinced me, after much prayer and reflection, that the time to leave the presidency has now come.”
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who graduated from St. John’s Law School, issued a statement commending Harrington for his nearly 24 years of service to the school.
“Over the last quarter of a century,” he said, “Farther Harrington transformed St. John’s from a really good university to a great one. As an alumnus of its law school, I’ve witnessed with pride as Father Harrington strengthened St. John’s academically and physically with new facilities and buildings, while holding fast to the Vincentian mission that has drawn so many of the University’s alumni to public service.”
Peter D’Angelo, the school’s board of trustees chair, issued a statement to the University in which he cited the school’s growth under Harrington’s two-decade management.
“The tenure of Father Harrington as president has been a period of unrivaled growth, expansion and achievement for our University,” he said. “He has been a transformative leader who guided this institution, nurtured its community, cultivated excellence and generated unprecedented levels of enthusiasm and support. At the same time, the University he departs has remained dedicated to service and education, prime components of our mission since St. John’s was founded 143 years ago.”