SBU president still hospitalized with COVID-19; Zimmer to serve as acting president

By Dustyn Green

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — St. Bonaventure University announced on Monday that Dr. Joseph Zimmer, the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, was named SBU’s acting president in place of Dr. Dennis DePerro. 

DePerro has been battling COVID-19 since being admitted to a Syracuse hospital on Dec. 29, where he was recently placed on a ventilator. In a release, the university said that DePerro is in serious but stable condition.

“It’s important that we have, during Dr. DePerro’s absence, a leader overseeing the business of the university,” said John Sheehan, chairman of the university’s board of trustees. “The (board) has complete confidence in Dr. Zimmer.” 

Zimmer told the campus community that his priority is to continue DePerro’s work until the president is healthy enough to return.

“My role now – in collaboration with our senior management team and faculty leaders – is simply to keep us moving forward in the positive direction we have been headed since [Dr. DePerro] came on board as president in 2017,” Zimmer said. 

Dr. Anne Foerst, chair of the university’s faculty senate, said that the senate will continue to work with Zimmer achieve this goal. 

“Dr. DePerro is in the thoughts and prayers of the entire university community, including the faculty, and we look forward to him making a full recovery,” Foerst said. “The faculty senate has and will continue to work constructively and productively with Dr. Zimmer, for the benefit of the university and its students.”  

Zimmer also conveyed a message to the campus community as it continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“With COVID-19 still consuming our thoughts and plans this semester, and the president working hard to recover, I’m asking every member of the Bonaventure community to support each other during this challenging time and to continue to keep our students’ needs at the forefront of everything we do – and, of course, to keep Dr. DePerro in your prayers,” Zimmer said. 

As of Tuesday, no further updates have been given on the president’s condition. Cards and well wishes for DePerro can be sent to the president’s office.  

SBU students from infected areas choose to stay on campus during online instruction period

By Jeff Uveino

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY — When St. Bonaventure University made the decision to cancel all in-person instruction from Monday until March 27, it gave students the option to remain on campus.

For some students, the unprecedented situation provided an opportunity to return home until classes resumed.

For others, especially those whose hometowns had been infected by the Coronavirus, it gave them the chance to remain in an area that the virus has not yet reached.

“Students who feel safer staying on campus — and many have indicated that to myself and colleagues — can do so,” said Dr. Dennis DePerro, president of the university, in a letter to the SBU community on Friday. “I’ve received many messages from parents expressing the same sentiment.”

Priscilla Contreras, a junior from New York City, said that staying at SBU was a better option for her than returning home.

“The best thing for me to do is stay on campus because I’m young and could fight off the virus, but if I go home, I could pass it on to my parents, my grandmother and everyone else,” Contreras said. “I don’t want to feel guilty for doing so, and staying (at SBU) is better for their safety.”

Contreras said that if she could not stay on campus, she would have concerns over storing her belongings and being able to get home on short notice.

“If I run out of food, I can easily just go to the Hickey (dining hall),” she said. “How will I able to get home and get all of my stuff with me home?”

As of Monday, there had been nearly 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in NYC, and none in Cattaraugus County, where SBU is located.

Anthony Adams, a freshman from Philadelphia, said that being able to stay on campus made him feel safer than if he was forced to leave. As of Monday, there were eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia County.

“Yeah, I think that staying on campus is safer because the virus isn’t here,” Adams said. “SBU is located between two very small towns with little interaction from outsiders, so there’s really no chance of people getting it here.”

DePerro said that he and senior management would meet regularly to determine whether an extension to the suspension of in-person instruction would be necessary.