February 18, 1959 - March 1, 2021
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to be made to the Dr. Dennis R. DePerro Memorial Scholarship at St. Bonaventure University at www.sbu.edu/drdeperro. Dr. Dennis R. DePerro, 21st president of St. Bonaventure University, died Monday, March 1, 2021, at Crouse Hospital, Syracuse as a result of complications from COVID-19. He was 62. “I know 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,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, SBU’s provost and now its acting president. In less than four years, Dennis left an indelible imprint on a university he dreamed of attending when he was a student at Buffalo’s Bishop Timon High School, only to be forced by family finances to accept a better scholarship offer at another college. Forty years later, his dream came true. Every time he spoke to a group of alumni, Dennis would invariably choke up when expressing how blessed he felt to be president of St. Bonaventure. He spoke often, and with awe, about the passion of the Bonaventure family, both immediate and extended. Alumni knew the tears were authentic and embraced him like one of their own. Intelligent, affable, insightful and hysterical, Dennis’ life was built on a foundation of relationships, on seeing the best in everyone and bringing out the best in so many that he touched. If you knew him 20 years or 20 minutes, you adored him. But nothing was more important than family. He attended almost every game his boys, Andrew and Matt, played from youth through high school sports and did whatever he could to attend Matt’s soccer games at Providence College – sometimes to the extreme. On the day before his introductory press conference as SBU’s president, Dennis traveled to Matt’s NCAA playoff game in Maryland … and proceeded to drive 325 miles through a snowstorm, getting stuck for 90 minutes in Pennsylvania when his power steering failed, and arriving at their Allegany hotel at 3:30 a.m. Matt didn’t even play; he was sidelined weeks before with an injury. A man who lived life to the fullest, Dennis inherited his mother’s passion for cooking and not only passed that love on to his family but shared his culinary skills whenever he could, entertaining friends and family or cooking for his sons’ friends on the weekends. An accomplished pianist and organist, he loved music and played organ at churches in Buffalo to help pay for college. Dennis loved boating with the family on Owasco Lake and traveling with Sherry and the boys, taking them to sporting events wherever their travels would lead. Even within the chaotic schedule of a college president, he moved heaven and earth to arrange one-day getaways with his family, often piggybacking them on work trips for Bonaventure. At St. Bonaventure, Dennis led with a big heart and soft touch, but also a firm grasp and clear vision of what every division at the university was and should be doing, informed by a 39-year career spent entirely in higher education, predominantly at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, where the student population rose sharply during his 18 years as vice president for enrollment. Dennis assumed the St. Bonaventure presidency June 1, 2017, and in less than four years oversaw the arrival of the three largest freshman classes in the last 11 years. He implemented new enrollment and marketing strategies, championed new academic program development, and embraced a strategic plan that many incoming presidents would have torn up because he respected the tireless work of the people who built the plan and was a willing collaborator to help make it better. He helped tear down silos, encouraged collaboration and opened the lines of communication with faculty, students, staff and alumni. He launched a comprehensive capital campaign to build “A Bolder Bonaventure,” stewarding transformative gifts to help the university’s new School of Health Professions become a reality. His vision to transform the university inspired him to form a number of campus-based presidential commissions to examine critical issues early on in his presidency, including a group devoted solely to mission integration, reflecting his passionate commitment to create a transformational experience for students rooted in the university’s Franciscan tradition. The university hired a vice president for mission integration in 2019. In 2020, he reconstituted the Presidential Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which is already making inroads to improve DEI efforts across campus. At Le Moyne, he was named the inaugural dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies in 2013. His experience developing health care programs at Le Moyne helped guide SBU’s efforts to bolster its new School of Health Professions, which welcomed its first class of graduate students this January. A Buffalo native, Dennis spent his entire 39-year career in college administration; for eight years (1982-1990) in admissions and alumni relations at his alma mater Canisius College, and for five years (1990-1995) as dean of admissions and financial aid at Marietta College in Ohio before going to Le Moyne in 1995. Dennis served on a variety of advisory boards, including the Council of Independent Colleges and Universities, the College Board, National Catholic College Admission Association, and the New York State Association of College Admission Counseling, among others. He served on the President’s Council of the Atlantic 10 Athletic Conference, Olean’s CEO Executive Alliance, Board of Trustees at Maria College (N.Y.), and the boards of Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse), Elmcrest Children’s Center, Francis House, and St. Joseph’s College of Nursing (N.Y.). Dennis was predeceased by his parents, Jennie, and Peter DePerro. Dennis is survived by his wife, Sherry; sons Andrew and Matthew; brothers Peter (Susan) DePerro and Richard (Marsha) DePerro and sister, Rose Giambone; along with several nieces and nephews. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 AM, Saturday, March 6, 2021 at Most Holy Rosary Church, 111 Roberts Ave. Syracuse, NY 13207. Family and friends may call on Friday, March 5, 2021 from 4:00 – 7: 00 PM at the THOMAS J. PIRRO JR. FUNERAL HOME 3401 Vickery Rd. (Corner of Buckley Rd.) N. Syracuse, NY 13212. For those unable to attend, the Funeral Mass will be live-streamed. To access the stream, please visit Dennis’ tribute page at tjpfuneralhome.com at 10:00 am on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to be made to the Dr. Dennis R. DePerro Memorial Scholarship at St. Bonaventure University at www.sbu.edu/drdeperro. Dr. Dennis R. DePerro, 21st president of St. Bonaventure University, died... View Obituary & Service Information
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