Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Coming Home: Father Sundborg On His Return to Seattle University

Kennedi Finnes
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J. featured in front of the Center for Science and Innovation.

“I’m very eager to return to Seattle University,” Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J. said. “It feels like home for me. I’m eager to get to know the university and see how it’s changed in the three years since I’ve been president, and I’m really excited about coming home.”

After three years away, Sundborg is returning to his previous residence in the Arrupe House on campus, starting July 1 in the role of chancellor. He was president of Seattle U for 24 years, until 2021, and taught theology at the school for eight years before then.

Mary-Antoinette Smith, an English professor at Seattle U, reflected on Sundborg’s legacy as president. 

“Fr. Sundborg’s legacy is interwoven throughout so much of what characterizes Seattle U as we know it today because of his stalwart commitment to improving our institution from the day he took the helm,” Smith wrote to The Spectator. 

Notably, Sundborg will be returning to the university in a position that is totally new. Chief of Staff at Seattle U Anne Moran helped explain what the role of chancellor means.

“First and foremost, his role will be about serving the university, being present to the faculty, staff, students and alumni as a Jesuit priest,” Moran said.

Once he returns, students can expect to see him around campus at events and celebrations, Mass of the Holy Spirit and sporting events. 

According to Sundborg, another large part of being Seattle U’s chancellor will be in representing the university to the public. However, his role is not limited to maintaining Seattle U’s community connections, and will also entail being an additional support system for President Eduardo Peñalver.

“I will meet with the president on a regular basis, and I will learn from him what are the things I could assist him in doing. It’s not so much taking over any kind of responsibility he has, but there’s only so much time in the day that he can reach out and be connected with alumni, friends, donors, and so forth,” Sundborg said. 

Sundborg explained that he hopes to serve as a “public Jesuit ambassador” for Seattle U, utilizing his experience and understanding of the school from his time as president as well as his experience as a Jesuit priest.

Chancellor is a position unique to Jesuit universities, traditionally reserved for former presidents who are also Jesuits. Though absent in recent years, having a chancellor isn’t something new to Seattle U. For the first 12 years of Sundborg’s presidency, the previous president Fr. William Sullivan served as chancellor. The largest difference between Sundborg’s previous role as president and his new position is that the chancellor has no administrative responsibilities. 

“I’m sort of like a free agent Jesuit to be engaged with the university, but more with the senior leaders than with other parts of the university, and more with people outside of the university that are connected with it,” Sundborg said. 

In addition to serving as a representative for the school to its associates and friends, Sundborg hopes to foster the Jesuit practice of communal discernment among senior university leaders. As a decision-making practice grounded in the Spirit, communal discernment is a process between a group that involves quietly and deeply listening to the perspectives of all involved. 

“It has to do with, if there’s an important decision or direction to be made… developing the capacity of a group of people to approach that in a way that’s different from ordinary discussion, or deliberation, or debate, and so forth,” he said. “There’s a great deal of quiet and listening to one another, to see what comes forward from that helps illuminate what that decision should be.”

Sundborg isn’t sure how this will play out in his new role, but he is interested in exploring this form of decision-making and the type of impact it will have on his colleagues. 

Considering that communal discernment is a process primarily involved with communicating and learning, Moran believes that it is applicable to several spaces across campus.

“What he will do is really help others build the capacity and practice for communal discernment,” Moran said. “That could be with retreats, seminars, workshops, and things like that. It’s all grounded and rooted in the Ignatian tradition.”

Further reflecting on what Sundborg’s return means for Seattle U, Moran expressed a sense of gratitude.

“I think that Seattle University is fortunate and further poised, with Father Steve as its chancellor, to its ongoing and unwavering commitment to Catholic and Jesuit education,” Moran said. 

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Kennedi Finnes, Staff Photographer

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