Bygone DePaul is a series highlighting DePaul’s campus and how it has changed through the years.
Fr. John Richardson was born in 1923 in Texas and ordained in 1949. He served at DePaul in various roles, including executive vice-president and dean of faculties, beginning in 1954 until his election as DePaul’s ninth president in 1981. His presidency lasted until 1993.
Fr. Richardson said of his tenure, “I would see the era of the ’60’s and ’70’s where DePaul moved very fast in becoming a true university I would see the ’80’s and ’90’s as looking more at our mission.” Fr. Richardson’s focus on continuing DePaul’s strong tradition of Vincentian values during his tenure has strengthened DePaul and its reputation throughout the city 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. Examples of DePaul’s urban partnerships can be found in the 1150 W. Fullerton building, which DePaul bought and renovated in 1993, and in the DePaul Center in the Loop. The University provides space on the first floor of 1150 W. Fullerton for the Chicago Public Library to use. The DePaul Center, formerly the Goldblatt’s Department Store building in the Loop, was purchased in 1991 for the relatively small sum of one million dollars. DePaul renovated that building as well, and then leased five floors back to the city. It also committed to create a two and a half million dollar scholarship program for Chicago students who perform community service, as well as to continue to anchor the South Loop. In addition, DePaul formed partnerships with 47 inner-city schools. Under Fr. Richardson’s direction, the International Human Rights Law Institute, the Institute for Business Ethics and the Center for Urban Education were founded. Along with five other universities, DePaul established the Chicago Center for Peace Studies. At the same time, the academic rigor of DePaul’s programs increased and DePaul continued to cement its strong reputation in Chicago and nationally.Fr. Richardson also presided over the construction of three new residence halls, which dramatically changed life at DePaul as the school began to attract students from out of state. At the same time, DePaul opened its first satellite campus in Oak Brook in order to better serve adult and commuting students. The Richardson Library, built in 1992, was the first free standing library in DePaul’s history. By the end of Fr. Richardson’s presidency, enrollment had reached 16,500.