During his twenty-five year tenure as president Reinert transformed the university was a vocal advocate for social justice. He was born on August 12 1910 to Francis and Emma Reinert and died July 22 2001 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1927, he entered the Society of Jesus and received both an A.B. (1927) and a M.A. (1934) from Saint Louis University. He then served as register at St. Mary’s College, in Kansas before earning a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (1944). After completing his Ph.D., he returned to Saint Louis University to serve as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1944-1948), vice-president (1948-1949), and president (1949-1974). After he retired from the presidency, he served as chancellor (1974-1991) and chancellor emeritus (1991-2001) until his death.
Reinert’s twenty-five years as president of Saint Louis University marked a seminal period in the history of the university, Catholic education, and American education in general. He faced an increased post-war enrollment in higher education and the necessary changes in curriculum. Under his administration, the university admitted women as regular students. In addition, while a junior administrator, he worked for the admission of the first African-American students to the university in 1944. Saint Louis University thus became the first historically white university in a former slave state to admit African-American students.
As the country’s cities faced increased racial tensions and urban universities dealt with the dilemma of the “white flight,” Reinert committed the institution to remain in urban St. Louis, as other American universities left their urban origins. As a result, Reinert became a leader in the revitalization of the inner city of St. Louis and the promotion of St. Louis higher education. His 1958 appointment to the Missouri Governor’s Committee of Education beyond High School eventually led to the formation of the St. Louis Junior College District in 1962 upon the recommendation of Dr. Ernest V. Hollis of the U.S. Department of Education and Edward B. Shils. He also was the member of other important state, federal and Catholic education committees that established policies that set the standard for education in his time.
As a national leader in Catholic education, Reinert remained confident in the advantages that private Catholic colleges and universities offered to their communities. He sought to expand Saint Louis University’s campus and to create programs that would attract minority students to a historically white university. Under Reinert’s direction in 1967, Saint Louis University became the first Catholic university to include lay member on its board of trustees. This reorganization initiated a trend that transformed Catholic higher education in America. In addition to this reorganization, he appointed lay professionals to high-ranking administrative positions in the university. Even though critics believed that Reinert’s decision conflicted with his position as a Jesuit and diluted the university’s Jesuit nature, Reinert and others believed that the changes both reaffirmed the Ignatian educational mission and broadened the university’s vision for the future. Moreover, his reorganization of the university demonstrated the increased status of the university and its dedication to serving the community. He continued to serve the community after his retirement as president in 1974.
Reinert’s publications include two books concerning the status of Catholic higher education, The Urban Catholic University (1970) and To Turn the Tide (1972), and a history of the university since the war, Seasons of Change: Reflections on Half a Century of Saint Louis University, coauthored with Paul Shore (1996).