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St. Bonaventure University President dies from COVID-19 complications

The university says flags will fly at half-staff in his honor.

OLEAN, N.Y. — The St. Bonaventure University community is mourning the loss of their president, Dr. Dennis R. DePerro. 

DePerro, 62, died Sunday due to complications from COVID-19. DePerro was admitted to the hospital December 29 after he tested positive on Christmas Eve. In an article posted on their website, the school says DePerro was placed on a ventilator in mid-January. 

“Words simply can’t convey the level of devastation our campus community feels right now,” said Dr. Joseph Zimmer, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, who was named acting president late last month while Dr. DePerro was in recovery. “I know when people die it’s become cliché to say things like, ‘He was a great leader, but an even better human being,’ and yet, that’s the absolute truth with Dennis. We are heartbroken.”

“His humanity, his insight, his ability to listen to all sides, his sense of humor — all of that made him a great leader,” said Tom Missel, chief communications officer. “What I’ll miss more than anything was his uncanny ability to make you feel better even on your worst days. He had a unique gift. I loved that man with all my heart. I know there are thousands of people who would say the same thing.”

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo Bishop Michael W. Fisher issued a statement on the passing of DePerro. 

“On behalf of our clergy, diocesan leaders, parishes, and educators, I wish to express our deepest condolences to the St. Bonaventure University community and the family of Dr. Dennis DePerro, on the occasion of his untimely passing. Again, we experience how this dreaded virus has robbed us of so many dedicated, talented and cherished members of our community.  We hold Dr. DePerro and his family in our hearts with abiding gratitude for all that he made possible in his long and distinguished career. May his enduring contributions and memory be a blessing and source of comfort, even as we offer gratitude to God for allowing him to share generously with this community his deep faith, abundant talents and loyal friendship.

DePerro had been president since 2017. The university says flags will fly at half-staff in his honor.