National Lutheran News

Four new college presidents step into office

Augsburg, Augustana SF, Cal Lutheran, St. Olaf all have new leaders

Editor’s note: Metro Lu-theran became aware of the selection of a new president for California Lutheran University after Russell Tokheim was assigned this story. A news release about CLU’s John Sladek follows Tokheim’s report.

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Enthusiasm for the job is a unifying trait among three new presidents of area ELCA colleges. While the specifics of what they hope to achieve vary somewhat in detail, all three know the challenges of supporting excellent educational experiences in an era of competition for both students and resources.

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Dr. Paul C. Pribbenow, new president of Augsburg, commented that he had spent the past 25 years of his career in nonsectarian places and has felt like a missionary for religious-based education. “I have always hoped to someday be president of a Lutheran college,” he said. “Augsburg is a strong liberal arts institution located in a major city, which is appealing to me. And Augsburg is committed to educating people to live their lives of faith in an urban environment.”

In response to the question about what he hopes to accomplish during his tenure at Augsburg, Prib-benow said, “I want to tell the story of Augsburg effectively. It is so active in the life of the city. I have a lot of enthusiasm for that task. In marketing terms, it is considered ‘branding’ or getting the message out. Also, because of Augsburg’s location it can show how church colleges can be active in a democracy. It has a strong commitment to education while being faithful to our religious traditions.
“I believe Augsburg can help students make a strong link between their faith and their vocation.”

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The new president at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is Robert C. Oliver. He knows Augustana well. Why did he want the job as president? “I feel very fortunate to have been associated with Augustana College for some 14 years, first as a member of the Board of Trustees, then for the last two years as a member of the faculty.

“When our current president, Bruce Halverson, an-nounced his intention to retire, I was unsure about seeking the position. Upon my nomination and because of the encouragement of many of my colleagues, I came to feel strongly that my background in business and my history with the college were good preparation for what I see as the leadership role of the president and the needs of Augustana. As well, I sensed the calling of the Holy Spirit in my life to apply my talents and energy, whatever they may be, to serve the college and the church in this way. I am humbled to have been chosen as the 23rd president of this fine institution, and further encouraged by the voices of support and confidence that I am hearing from the Augustana stakeholders. It is an awesome responsibility to be asked to be the leader of Augustana College, and I am excited and enthusiastic about what lies ahead.”

Asked what he hopes to accomplish during his tenure, he said, “The challenges for higher education in general and for private colleges in particular are not insignificant. Costs of delivering a superior educational experience continue to mount and the competition for students and for resources also is increasing.”

Oliver said he wants to continue to celebrate the proud heritage of Augustana College while at the same time communicating “an exciting vision for our future in a rapidly changing environment.”

It is most important, he said, to successfully compete for the needed financial resources and to articulate clearly the value and enduring worth of a degree from Augustana College.
“It is my hope to build on an already fine academic
reputation and team of richly talented faculty, staff and administrators such that Augustana solidifies its position as one of the premier colleges of the church in the United States.”

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Dr. David R. Anderson, new president of St. Olaf, said, “I believe passionately in the importance and value of Lutheran higher education, and I see this appointment as an opportunity to do what I can to preserve, nurture and enhance that education for future generations.

“I also believe passionately that a liberal arts education delivered in an intensively residential setting is the best education for life. Liberal arts colleges teach not only certain kinds of knowledge, skills and competencies, but also, and more importantly, they teach students to think analytically, to learn how to learn.”

Said Anderson, “The world our students will inhabit as adults will be characterized above all else by change, and it’s crucial that we equip them with the tools that will enable them to be lifelong learners.”

He said, “When you offer a liberal arts undergraduate education that occurs within and in reference to the Lutheran tradition and the faith journeys of students, it’s as good as it gets.”

Anderson is a St. Olaf alumnus (class of 1974). He said, “This is an opportunity to give back to my college. I grew up in Wisconsin, and most of my family still lives in the Upper Midwest. So you see, returning to St. Olaf as president is an opportunity to come home in many and important ways.”

What does Anderson hope to accomplish during his tenure? “I hope to create the conditions in which all of us in the St. Olaf community together can accomplish a number of things:
n Nurture our identity as a college of the church, rooted in our Norwegian immigrant heritage.

* Support and enhance the college’s rigorous academic program, which is one of its greatest strengths.

* Maximize the benefits to students of our intense residentiality by focusing on the education of the whole person.

* Gather in the resources the college needs to provide a St. Olaf education to current and future students.
n While doing these things … to have fun!”

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California Lutheran University (CLU) has chosen Dr. John Sladek of Evergreen, Colo-rado, to serve as its new president and chief executive officer. The Thousand Oaks, California, school is affiliated with the ELCA.

Sladek will serve as CLU’s sixth president. A graduate of Carthage Col-lege, another ELCA school, he is currently serving as vice chancellor for research at the University of Colorado at Denver. His scholarly work is in the field of neurology and anatomy.

He previously served on the faculty at Chicago Medical School and the University of Rochester.
He has served as a member of the Carthage College Board of Trustees for the past ten years, chairing its Division of Natural Sciences advisory committee.

Of his new leadership opportunity, Sladek said, “I am aware of the president’s need to articulate the overall mission and Lutheran identity of the university. I look forward to working with the Lutheran Church and the larger faith community.”

He added, “I have been impressed by CLU’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate and graduate studies, its high-quality faculty and students, its strong sense of tradition and community, and its very evident potential for growth and greatness.”

Sladek and his wife Celia have three grown children — Jonathan, Stefan and Jessica.