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Excerpts: New SLU law dean: I am not Biondi’s ‘butt boy’

Tom Keefe has laid out a lengthy plan for his year in the hot seat as SLU’s law dean and also plans to maintain his practice in Belleville, Ill. Photo by Karen Elshout

In his first extended interview since he became dean of the Saint Louis University School of Law, Tom Keefe made it clear that he wasn’t about to change to suit anyone, including the university’s president, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi.

“I don’t like coats, ties and authority. I don’t do well taking orders,” Keefe said.

Here are excerpts from the full story, available to Missouri Lawyers Weekly subscribers.

On his independence from Biondi:

At a Jesuit university with a history of clamping down on employees who make statements in opposition to Catholic teachings, Keefe is an outspoken Democrat, prone to quotable zingers and uncensored insights. So when he made it clear that he was thrilled about U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s troubles for statements about abortion, Keefe wasn’t worried who knew.

“Does that sound like somebody who is Father Biondi’s butt boy?” he asked.

During a nearly two-hour interview with Missouri Lawyers Weekly, the terms “butt boy,” “trained monkey” and “yes man” cropped up many times as examples of what Keefe said he has been called and what he adamantly says he is not.

“[Biondi] can’t afford me. … I get to make way too much money lawyering to be his trained monkey. He doesn’t have enough money to do that, and he doesn’t want to.”

“I’m an important alumni. I’m a source of future funding. Why in the heck would I step and fetch for a guy who wants my money?”

On his predecessor

Keefe arrives on the heels of a scandal that made national headlines for the school. In early August, Keefe’s predecessor, Annette Clark, quit her post as dean, sending out her resignation missives to faculty, staff, Biondi and Vice President for Academic Affairs Manoj Patankar.

“The story wasn’t her allegations against Father Biondi,” Keefe said. “The story was that a university dean called a university president a no-account son of a bitch. That was the story.” He accused Clark of manipulating public opinion: “She didn’t write a letter to the faculty with a copy to the media, she wrote a letter to the media with a copy to the faculty.”

On his politics

Keefe proudly declared his political leanings, including donations to one political party.

“I mean, I am a Democrat. Am I allowed to say I’m a Democrat?” he said. “Well, if I’m Father Biondi’s butt boy I guess that’s going to get me in trouble.”

At the time of Keefe’s conversation with Missouri Lawyers Weekly, on Tuesday evening, political junkies were waiting to see if Missouri congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin would bow out of the Senate race on the heels of his controversial statement that “legitimate rape” doesn’t cause pregnancy.

Akin had backpedaled on his comments after a media firestorm, but those clarifications did not satisfy Keefe, he said.

“When’s [Akin] going to say something about the mother, for Christ’s sake? “

Like many Democrats, Keefe said he was hopeful Akin would stay in the race.

“That’s why I say to myself over and over again, thank you God for Todd Akin. There is a God. We might actually keep control of the Senate,” Keefe said. “Does that sound like somebody who’s Father Biondi’s butt boy?”

On the law school’s move downtown

Biondi, Keefe said, brought him into the job for reasons beyond his money and connections.

“We’re getting ready to move this law school, literally and figuratively. We’re moving it from a university setting to a place where lawyers lawyer and judges judge,” Keefe said. “I think perhaps what Father thought is that it would make some sense to have someone who lawyers and who regularly appears in front of judges and who tries cases, who’s made his living in the courtroom to have a role in the process of moving us downtown.”


Here’s a look at litigation involving SLU that we’ve reported:

Daniels v. Saint Louis University

Hooper v. Saint Louis University

Murray v. Saint Louis University

Palliser v. Saint Louis University

Noldon v. Saint Louis University

Young v. Saint Louis University


  1. Margaret Russell

    Why in God’s name was this man hired to head a law school with that mindset? Where is the fairness, justice, equality of thought that students should be mentored by in their law school education?

    For some reason, even Catholic universities in America cannot stand up for their religion in this environment. It’s a sad day, just like the others, most notably Notre Dame and the coverup of the crucifix for Obama’s “talk” at another school.

    God Bless America and The Church. He is in charge, not the law, thank God.


  2. Wow, it is most refreshing to hear they have made a good choice for Dean of the Law School… I am not sure where Ms. Russell has drawn her conclusions from.

  3. Brian,
    Tacky comes to mind.

  4. Billy Ray Joe Ellen

    Tom Keefe is ill suited to run this law school and was a horrible choice. I know him in passing and he is totally egomaniacal but mostly displays some of the worst judgment I have ever witnessed. Whoever chose him should be held accountable, the decision will hinder SLU law students entering the job market.


  5. Well he’s certainly colorful! I’m excited that the creative leaders Downtown will have someone as interesting as this running the Law School.

  6. the authors should issue a correction to this article. it is stated that the University has a .history of clamping down on those who oppose Church teaching. in truth, the University has a history of firing those who oppose or challenge the president in any matter. Church teaching has very little to do with what happens at the administration there. power, nepotism, and chauvinism are the order of the day.

  7. Gotta love Billy Ray’s comment: “he is totally egomaniacal but mostly displays some of the worst judgment I have ever witnessed. ” Uh, like repeated making reference to being Biondi’s “butt-boy”? Maybe not the most politic phrase for a dean at a Catholic school.

    Biondi has long since ceased to be a Jesuit, or even a decent human being — he’s a petty, power-drunk despot who fires anyone (including other Jesuits) who dare do anything to oppose him. I have nothing against Keefe except his lack of academic credentials for being Dean of a college. Very telling that Biondi couldn’t find an actual academic to take over after Clark. I’m feeling pretty sorry for the students and alums of the law school — what a waste.

  8. Why would Father Biondi hire someone who is the poster child for the reason lawyer is a four letter word. As a member of the kings of torts, what does he really have to offer to SLU law school students? Nothing that will benefit society!

  9. What a homophobic jerk. Words like this degrade other humans. He should go back to private practice where he’ll get the high salary he imagines and spare us all his insensitive, aggressive behavior.

    All of us have to work within a system. All of us have to do what our bosses insist upon.

  10. Wow! I hope the students coming out of SLU are more impressive than this idiot. Seriously, did anyone interview this moron before offering him this position and letting him speak to the public as a SLU representative. I can see why the school’s reputation is falling – you would never see anyone representing a top-tier university speak this way. Maybe he isn’t a ‘butt-boy’, but he is definitely an a**hole.

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