Year in Review: 2017

01/02/2018

It was a year that launched a bicentennial and a Billiken. A year for cutting ribbons and breaking ground. A year for bright freshmen and a record number of Fulbright scholars. Below is a look back at 2017 at Saint Louis University.

Bicentennial Mass

The University, along with SLU High School, celebrated a Bicentennial Mass on Sept. 23 under the St. Louis Gateway Arch. St. Louis Gateway Arch. Believed to be the first Catholic Mass ever held beneath the Arch, the setting recalled the SLU’s first location in a small home located on what is now the famous monument’s grounds.

A Mass and the Mascot

In 2017, SLU kicked off a 15-month celebration leading up to the 200-year anniversary of its founding in 1818 with a historic Mass under the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrated the Mass, which drew approximately 6,000 attendees during Homecoming and Family Weekend, and is believed to be the first Catholic Mass ever held beneath the Arch.

In honor of SLU's 200th anniversary, the University announced the 200-Years-in-One Challenge . All SLU students, faculty, staff, alumni and others beyond the University are being challenged to give back 200 years of volunteer service – that’s more than 1.75 million hours — all in one short year.

Billiken Mascot
The new version of the Billiken mascot costume was introduced at the Jan. 25 men’s basketball game.

To track its progress, the University installed a 200-Year Clock at the corner of Grand and Lindell boulevards. People can contribute their volunteer hours through a special mobile app.

While the bicentennial Mass and service challenge received a lot of press coverage, it was the reveal of a new Billiken mascot costume that generated the most headlines in 2017. 

After a new look unveiled in fall 2016 received significant feedback, the University announced it would tweak the design. SLU asked the public to weigh in, and more than 17,000 students, faculty, staff, students, alumni and fans responded to an online survey. Their input was incorporated in the final costume that debuted in late January.

Related: The Top People Stories of 2017

New Facilities 

Grand Hall

Grand Hall features classrooms, a conference room, meeting rooms, study rooms, floor lounges, kitchens and laundry rooms on alternating floors, among other amenities. 

SLU opened Grand Hall, the second of two new residence halls on campus. Located at Grand Boulevard and Laclede Avenue, the $71 million facility includes a 740-seat dining hall and houses approximately 530 first- and second-year students. 

SLU and SSM Health St. Louis broke ground on a new $550 million SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, which is scheduled to open on the University’s Medical Center in 2020.

The University unveiled the Academic Tech Commons, a state-of-the-art, 14,000-square-foot creator space in Pius XII Memorial Library that includes 3D printers, 360-degree cameras, recording studios and hologram technology.

Academic Achievements

New Student Convocation

Members of SLU's new freshman class before the 2017 New Student Convocation and Family Welcome in Chaifetz Arena. 

In the fall, SLU enrolled the most academically gifted freshman class in history, with a 3.9 GPA and all-time-high ACT and SAT scores. The Class of 2021 is also the University’s second-largest freshman class ever. 

A record number of SLU students received Fulbright Awards for their academic and professional achievement, as well as their record of service and leadership potential. 

Student-athletes continued to be recognized for their academic work with 143 Billikens landing on the A-10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll for achieving a GPA of 3.5 or better during the spring 2017 semester. 

On national Match Day, fourth-year medical students matched into top residency programs at Yale, Harvard, Mayo Clinic, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Case Western Reserve, Stanford and UCLA, among others.

The School of Law saw its highest Missouri Bar Examination passage rate in five years for first-time takers of the bar's July administration, with a pass rate of 94 percent.

Grants and Gifts 

The School of Education received a $2.8 million grant — the largest in its history — from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission as part of an immersion program for Saudi professional educators.

Through a national nursing workforce diversity grant awarded in 2017, the School of Nursing will receive $1.5 million in federal funds over the next four years to support disadvantaged students.  

SLU received a $1.2 Million McNair Scholars Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare eligible, high-achieving undergraduate students for doctoral studies. 

The John Cook School of Business received a $1 million gift from Edward Jones to establish the Edward Jones Deanship, the first named deanship in the business school’s history.

New Partnerships 

The University partnered with St. Louis Community College to establish 2+SLU, a dual admission program that allows students earn a bachelor’s degree in select programs at SLU in two years, following two years at the community college. 

Expanding its educational reach nationally, SLU signed a partnership with EdAssist to offer access to online degree and training options for 120 corporate employers nationwide.

Research Developments 

Katherine C. MacKinnon, Ph.D.
SLU anthropologist Katherine C. MacKinnon, Ph.D., was one of 31 internationally recognized experts who co-authored a scientific article evaluating the state of the primates worldwide and calling for urgent action to protect them.

Jacki Kornbluth, Ph.D., a professor of pathology, molecular microbiology and immunology, received a $911,000 Veteran's Administration Merit Award for her continuing work on anti-tumor and anti-microbial immunity. 

More than 90 percent of study volunteers in a clinical trial for Zika at Saint Louis University and two other institutions demonstrated an immune response to the virus. 

SLU anthropologist Katherine C. MacKinnon, Ph.D., co-authored a global study confirming the dire decline of non-human primates. 

Rankings and Honors 

SLU was named a top-50 best value in U.S. News & World Report undergraduate rankings. Among graduate programs, SLU’s health law program was No. 1, marking 13 years in the top spot, while four graduate business programs ranked in the top 25. 

More than 170 SLUCare physicians from a variety of specialties were recognized by St. Louis Magazine as the best doctors of 2017, based on the annual “Best Doctors in America” database. 

SLU’s Prison Program and Legal Clinics were selected for St. Louis Arcus Awards, which honor commitment to regional prosperity, opportunity and equity. 

After capturing third place at the 2017 President's Cup, SLU was honored as "Chess College of the Year" by the U.S. Chess Federation. 

Major Appointments 

In 2017, SLU made a several appointments to high-profile posts.

  • Thomas Burroughs, Ph.D., was appointed to a three-year term as interim dean of the College for Public Health and Social Justice.
  • Tracy Chapman, Ph.D., was selected dean of School for Professional Studies. She formerly served as associate dean for adult and e-learning in the College of Professional Studies at Creighton University.
  • Justin Daffron, S.J., was appointed special assistant to the president for growth strategies. He previously served in leadership roles at Loyola University Chicago.
  • Robert M. Heaney, M.D., permanently assumed the role of the chief executive officer of SLUCare, the University’s physician group. 
  • Gary Ritter, Ph.D., was named dean of the School of Education and will come on board in 2018. He is a professor of education policy and holder of the 21st Century Endowed Chair in Education Policy at the University of Arkansas.

In Memoriam 

Maurice Green, Ph.D.

Longtime SLU researcher Maurice Green, Ph.D., became the founding chair of the University’s Institute for Molecular Virology in 1964.

In 2017, the University lost a number of members of the SLU community who were serving in teaching, research and other roles at the time of their passing. 

  • Mark Buller, Ph.D. (1949-2017) was a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, and one of the nation's foremost poxvirus researchers. 
  • Maurice Green, Ph.D. (1926-2017) was a researcher at SLU for more than six decades and a pioneer in the field of molecular virology. 
  • Georgia K. Johnston, Ph.D. (1958-2017) was an English professor and internationally recognized scholar of modern British literature.
  • Paul Lorenzini (1939-2017) was a longtime member of the University’s board of trustees and supporter of SLU. 
  • Robert W. May, J.D. (1947-2017) was a SLU graduate and member of the University’s board of trustees. 
  • Mark Wilson (1959-2017) was a fine and performing arts professor who worked as a professional theater lighting designer for over 35 years.
  • Norm White, Ph.D. (1953 to 2017) was a criminology professor noted for his dedication to breaking the school-to-prison pipeline. 

To keep up-to-date on the latest developments happening at Saint Louis University in 2018, visit the University’s online newsroom or follow @SLU_Official on Twitter.