Newsroom > News > Press Releases > The Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., 9th president of DePaul University, passes away at 98

The Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., 9th president of DePaul University, passes away at 98

​​CHICAGO — The Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., a visionary who led the historic expansion of DePaul University during his 12-year presidency, has died. He passed away March 29 at age 98 at the Apostle of Charity residence at St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, Missouri, where he had lived in recent years. He served as president of DePaul University from 1981-93 and chancellor from 1993-2017.

“Fr. Richardson’s leadership of DePaul resulted in growing our national reputation, while expanding our engagement in the city of Chicago and deepening our commitment to the university’s Catholic, Vincentian, and urban mission,” DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban says. “He was a visionary leader, whose impact on our university will endure, and he will be missed by all in the DePaul family.” 

During his tenure of more than half a century at DePaul, Richardson’s focus remained steadfast on the university’s mission to provide a quality education to students of all backgrounds, including low-income and first-generation students, raising the university’s academic stature and strengthening the university’s impact throughout Chicago and the world. His presidency marked a period of intense growth of DePaul's community involvement in Lincoln Park, the Loop and all of Chicago. Hallmarks of his time with the university include increasing DePaul’s appeal to students across the country, strengthening the university’s Vincentian commitment to its urban community and developing the diversity of DePaul’s faculty, staff and student body.

Rev. John. T. Richardson, C.M.
The Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., served as president of DePaul University from 1981-93 and chancellor from 1993-2017. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
Richardson joins his parents and siblings in heaven, including his brother, the Rev. James Richardson, C.M., formerly Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission. Funeral services celebrating Richardson’s life are pending and will be celebrated at St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, Missouri, where he lived at the time of his passing and will be interred, and at St. Vincent de Paul Parish at 1010 W. Webster Ave.
Memorial donations may be made to benefit the work of the Congregation of the Mission; click “Donate” on the home page. Memorial gifts may be allocated for care of senior Vincentian priests and brothers, the Kenya mission, DePaul University, and more.

“Fr. Richardson was a dedicated Vincentian, priest, educator and missionary,” said Rev. Patrick McDevitt, provincial superior of the Congregation of the Mission Western Province. “He was passionate about improving the lives of others and working for a more just and fair society.”

Putting ‘invaluable’ experience to work as president

Richardson was elected DePaul’s next president by the Board of Trustees and assumed the office in 1981. He led the university’s unprecedented $100 million Cornerstone Campaign from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, which led to major expansions of DePaul’s campuses in both the Loop and in Lincoln Park. Enrollment at DePaul jumped dramatically during his tenure, and the school again became the largest Catholic university in the nation. By the end of Richardson's presidency, enrollment had reached 16,500. Enrollment increases during his tenure were driven in part by the construction of three new residence halls in Lincoln Park, which dramatically changed life at DePaul as the university began to attract students from out of state.

During his presidency, DePaul’s commitment to Chicago and expanding its physical footprint within the city increased significantly. Examples of DePaul's urban expansion can be found in the 1150 W. Fullerton Ave. building, which DePaul bought and renovated in 1993; the purchase of the Blackstone Theatre (renamed the Merle Reskin Theatre) on Balbo Ave. and Wabash Ave. in 1989; and the purchase of Goldblatt’s department store (now known as the DePaul Center) at the corner of State St. and Jackson Blvd. in 1991, for the relatively small sum at the time of $1 million. DePaul modernized the building and then leased five floors back to the city. Both projects allowed for new programs to be established at the university and brought thousands of students and patrons back to the area in a move that helped kick start the revitalization of the South Loop.

In 1992, DePaul began construction on the university’s first free-standing library on the Lincoln Park Campus, made possible by a major donation from the family of DePaul alumnus Richard Heise. Little did Richardson know, the family requested that the new library be named in his honor: The John T. Richardson Library.

Under Richardson's direction, DePaul established the International Human Rights Law Institute, the Institute for Business Ethics, the Center for Church/State Studies and the Center for Urban Education.

A full account of Richardson’s life and accomplishments is available on DePaul’s Newsline website​.


Media contact:
Russell Dorn
312-956-2176 cell​​