President Crain’s Lion legacy coming to a close


Chloe Williams

Dr. John L. Crain taking a look at his initial photo from when he first began his presidency at SLU.

Dr. John L. Crain is stepping down after 35 years in higher education and 14 years as president of Southeastern. He is now looking forward to his retirement after successfully shepherding the university through tumultuous waters, including Covid-19, multiple hurricanes and financial uncertainties.

Crain stated he is retiring for no particular reason other than wanting what’s best for himself and Southeastern. 

“To me, there’s always going to be a new reason to step down, but personally, I believe that leaders should step down when your people want you to stay. The timing for stepping down comes down to what is best for the university, not me,” Crain said.

Now that he’s leaving SLU, he can look back on his tenure with some perspective. Crain said in his experience as president, he has learned everyone in a leadership position has challenging goals that must be met, and the best way to deal with these tasks is to have a good team standing with you.

He ardently thanked his team, along with two people in particular who helped forge his path to where he is today: Dr. Randy Moffett and Andre Coudrain.

Moffett was Crain’s predecessor as president of Southeastern. During Moffet’s time in office, Crain served as the provost and faculty senate president. Coudrain is a local attorney and SLU alum who served as the board supervisor when Crain threw his hat in the ring to be the next person to lead SLU. In Crain’s eyes, both of them were essential to his selection as president and his early success in the role.

During his 36 years as a Lion, he has seen many major changes on and off campus.

 “I think everything has changed, aside from the core institution. Many of the landmarks we see on campus are different from what I saw when I was a student in 1979. We didn’t have Twelve Oaks and Ascension dormitories. We didn’t have the lion statue in Friendship Circle. We’ve come a long way in the past few decades,” Crain described.

It was difficult for Crain to pick a single crowning achievement as president because, for every task he had to tackle, he didn’t do the hard work alone. The entire Southeastern faculty and administration were instrumental in every successful endeavor.

“When you are a leader of an organization, you don’t do all of the work yourself. Work takes a team, and we all work together to get things done. I can’t take all the credit or say it’s all my accomplishments, because it was Southeastern as a whole,” Crain said.

His presidency has been full of challenges as well. Aside from dealing with Covid-19 and devastating weather events such as Hurricane Ida, Crain has had to lead the school through financial challenges and the recent campus-wide network outage. 

Crain explained, “The network incident was frustrating on many levels. Of course, faculty, staff and students were frustrated with the lack of information technology services that we were all accustomed to having easily available at our fingertips. Unlike in the aftermath of a hurricane, when people see trees and powerlines down and therefore readily understand why electricity and other services are not available, with the network incident, there was no visible, tangible evidence.” 

He wanted to share his gratitude for the work done by Interim CIO Dr. John Burris and the campus community’s resilience during the network outage. In the face of adversity, Crain said his team was resolute in their commitment to the school’s success.

Always a man with an eye toward the future, Crain said in his opinion, a good university president should have flexibility and durability. While he does not get a say in who his successor will be, Crain has hopes it will be someone who can face the unknown. 

His advice to the next president was, “Be prepared for the unexpected.”

In terms of what he looks forward to in retirement, Crain said, “I’m planning on taking some vacations. I could also return to my piano now that I’ll have some more free time.” 

On his 14 years in office, Crain said they were, in a nutshell, “never dull.”

Crain will leave his post at the end of the academic year and attend Spring 2023 graduation. 

There will be a retirement open house reception on April 27 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the President’s Residence to celebrate Crain’s time in office and wish him well in his life post-presidency. 

Though he will no longer be at the university’s helm, Crain has etched himself into the Southeastern history books as one of the school’s longest-serving and most successful presidents. He is, and always will be, a Lion at heart.