Obituary: Peter Sortino, assistant vice chancellor, 62

Peter Sortino photo

Peter G. Sortino, assistant vice chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis and a longtime St. Louis civic leader, died Friday, March 24, 2017, at his home in Sunset Hills, Mo., of pancreatic cancer. He was 62.

Before joining the university administration in 2011, Sortino played a key role in much of St. Louis’ progress during the last 30 years, including the renovation of Forest Park, the redevelopment of Washington Avenue, the construction of Scottrade Center and the establishment of the network of parks and trails being built across the bistate area.

In 2013, he was inducted into the Missouri Recreation and Parks Hall of Fame for his leadership of the metropolitan-wide campaign securing voter approval of a sales tax increase that funded the establishment of this network.

Most recently, he was recognized in November as St. Louis’ 2016 Citizen of the Year.

Sortino came to the university after serving as president of the Danforth Foundation from 2005-2011, during which time he oversaw the administration of all grants and related activities of the foundation. He also helped lay the groundwork for CityArchRiver, the project transforming the Gateway Arch grounds.

Sortino worked closely with Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and other administrative and academic leaders to develop specific plans for Washington University to become an even stronger contributor to the well-being of the St. Louis area.

“Peter was a thoughtful and wise adviser to me and so many others at the university,” Wrighton said. “He made us a better institution, just as he worked for decades making St. Louis a better community. Everyone who ever worked with him will remember his keen intellect, his sincere concern for the future of St. Louis and his great kindness. I will miss him very much.”

Working with colleagues in the Office of Government and Community Relations, Sortino helped produce the university’s Economic Impact on the St. Louis Region brochure and online resource.

He and Leah Merrifield, associate vice chancellor for community engagement, led a multiyear project that created a database and a system for consistent annual reporting of the university’s key economic indicators.

“Peter Sortino was the quintessential colleague — knowledgeable, easy to work with and fun to be around,” Merrifield said.

Additionally, Sortino served as the university’s primary liaison with the city of Clayton and the Clayton Chamber of Commerce.

Sortino is survived by his wife, Leslie Sortino; a son, Philip Sortino, of St. Louis; his mother, Mary Sortino, and a sister, Paula Celona, both of Yonkers, N.Y. He was preceded in death by his father, Peter, and a sister, Elaine Sortino.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 28, at St. Ambrose Church, 5130 Wilson Ave. Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery, 5239 West Florissant Ave.

Read more about Sortino and his myriad contributions to St. Louis in his obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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