Top educator conveys his vision of a new job

by Joseph G. Lariosa
CHICAGO (JGL) — Is college education the new frontier for Overseas Filipinos just as the Filipino working force is still fulfilling its demands for overseas workers worldwide?

Dr. Amado Gabriel M. Esteban floated this idea when he was introduced at a welcome reception by outgoing Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge and the Filipino community last Thursday (Aug. 17) during the 27th Pagkikita sa Konsulado (town hall meeting at the Philippine Consulate).

Dr. Esteban, one of the rare Philippine-born presidents of American universities said that the U.S. population is aging. In Illinois, he estimated that by 2034, the number of 18-year-olds will decline by 19.1 percent.

“That loss of 20 percent is the market of higher education. What are we supposed to do?” he asked.

“That group is not going to college. So, you have to make an extra effort that they are college prepared,” he said. “The U.S. is rapidly aging. A lot of industrial world is rapidly aging. And that is what you see what happened in (South) Korea. They built a lot of higher education institutions. Now, they are shutting down or shrinking. Japan and China are going the same way.”

In comparison to the Philippines, he considers it as a young country which has opportunities for higher education “to supply a workforce to the industrial world as economies are growing at different phases.”

He acknowledges that the Philippines is on track as the highest growing or fastest growing economy in Asia while U.S. growth rate is 1 to 2 percent.

As the 12th president of the nation’s largest Catholic university, the Chicago-based De Paul University, Esteban said the “Philippines has lots of education opportunities in the U.S., which has an education “workforce that has a large intellectual capacity.”

According to published reports, between 2004 and 2014, enrollment for higher education in U.S. increased 17 percent, from 17.3-million to 20.2-million. In Japan, there were 2.8-million students enrolled in its 778 universities. China has 6-million enrollment in its 2,000 universities and colleges while Korea has 3.7-million students in its 376 official higher education institutions.


In the Philippines, in academic year 2012/13 total post-secondary enrollment accounts for 3.56-million (of which 57 percent were in the private sector), an increase of over one million since 2004 when there were 2.40-million students in the system.

Esteban is a graduate of the University of the Philippines. The other Philippine-born president of a U.S. university is Conrado “Bobby” Gempesaw, Ph. D., who earned his B.A. in Economics from the Ateneo de Davao University. He is the current president of St. John University in Jamaica, Queens, New York. The third Filipino head of a U.S. college is Loretta Adrian, also a UP alumna. She is the president of Coastline Community College, the first campus-free college, scattered among storefront locations in Orange County in California. Chito Calino also served as college president but has returned to the Philippines.

Both De Paul University and St. John are under the Vincentian tradition as does the Niagara University in New York.

“Less than 1 percent of college presidents are Asian Americans. Asian Americans comprise 6-7% among American student population and are at the very top,” Esteban said.

According to Washington, D.C. think tank, Migration Policy, citing Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) sources, “Today, more than 10-million Filipinos — or about 10 percent of the population — are working and/or living abroad.”

In an interview with the Journal GlobaLinks, Esteban said that when he was president of Seton Hall University (SHU) in New Jersey for seven years, he set up academic linkages with University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, De La Salle University and Silliman University, among others.


“That is my one way of giving back to the Philippines,” Esteban said in harnessing the talents of Filipinos.

Now that he has started serving since July 1, 2017 for the next five years as president of De Paul University, he hopes to replicate his effort in Seton Hall University in De Paul.

“What is exciting about De Paul is that we already have a sister institution in the Philippines in Adamson University. We will see how we can work with other universities,” he said.

When this reporter interviewed him in 2011, he was asked where he would be in five years.  “It is hard to tell, maybe I can be president of another university,” he said.

When asked Thursday by this reporter if he will accept a position as president of a university in the Philippines, Esteban demurred.  “No comment,” he responded. “I think there are capable educators in the Philippines. The biggest challenge is to move back to the Philippines with another set of knowledge. My knowledge of education is taken from another setting.”

He believes in life going forward and in trying to understand the decisions made. “My wife (Josephine King Esteban) and I believe the way to be happy is to pray for the best and take the path that the Lord leads you, too, and not worry about it,” added Esteban.

“There are some worries as you progress and there are regrets. That’s part of growing up, be older and hopefully wiser. That’s a big thing. I am at peace where I am now since we’ve been blessed. We never imagine we will be here in the U.S. And where we are right now, we are just here for the ride,” he reminisced.

When he was with SHU, he believes he was able to accomplish more than he thought. “Now, they (SHU) are going to open a new campus for health and medical sciences. They are opening up a new medical school. Right now at De Paul, we are going to strategic planning. I will spend a lot of time listening. Talking to a lot of people.”


De Paul is the largest Catholic education institution in the U.S. with 23,100 students compared to St. John’s 20,000. It is a very diverse community with a large international student population at 2,500.

Esteban said De Paul University has a long-standing relationship with Adamson University in the Philippines – also a Vincentian school. It has the same mission as De Paul and believes in outreach.

“Our agreement with Adamson goes back to 2005,” he said. “Their faculty can select online classes at De Paul because we believe in helping each other as sister institutions. More recently, we have offered an MBA with iACADEMY in Makati, first U.S. university to offer an MBA program in the Philippines,” Esteban continued.

As chief academic officer and president of SHU, he set up a relationship with UP College of Nursing and School of Medicine, La Salle School of Medicine in Cavite, Silliman University and UST. He expects to do the same with De Paul and add more outreach and interesting opportunities not only in the Philippines but also around the world.

“Every place where they can benefit from Vincentian education,” the 55-year-old educator said.

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