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Luther Sem makes change at the helm

Rick Foss named interim seminary president

The Rev. Rick Foss

The Board of Directors of Luther Seminary announced December 14 that the Rev. Richard J. Foss would serve as interim president while a search for a permanent president took place. This action was taken after the December 10 announcement that the Rev. Richard Bliese, who had been seminary president since 2005, had resigned.
The transition for Foss could be relatively seamless. He has been at Luther Seminary since 2008, when he became director of contextual learning. Previously he had served as bishop of the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, where he had been since 1992.
“I have an existing relationship with the school,” Foss told Metro Lutheran. “Basically, I know that Luther is a really healthy [institution] that has taken a hit. We have some tough stuff coming up. But I know the people, I know what’s going on, and I know the quality of the students. We will be fine.”
“We are so fortunate to have found such a strong leader who already understands and believes in the mission of Luther Seminary,” said Board Chair Jim Lindus. “While we considered many candidates from around the country, Rick was clearly the right choice.” Foss will assume the responsibilities of interim president on January 1, 2013.

Facing new challenges

The resignation of Bliese seemed to surprise many on campus. “We are thankful for all Rick [Bliese] has done during his years at Luther Seminary,” said Lindus. “His compelling vision, unwavering commitment to Luther Seminary’s mission, and aggressive strategic plan have helped the seminary maintain a healthy enrollment of students, a stellar faculty, and strong financial support from loyal and dedicated donors.

“Our faculty is discussing curriculum revision to meet the challenges of pastors for the future, not just for the past or present.”

“While we continue to function at a high level, we are facing a difficult combination of challenges, not unlike those faced by many other institutions of higher education. These challenges include deferred maintenance charges related to aging buildings, the costs of delivering a wide variety of educational programs, and a nationwide drop in the number of students attending seminaries.”
Lindus said this transition comes at a time when the financial performance of the seminary has lagged expectations.
Prior to President Bliese’s resignation, the seminary started to take positive measures to ensure its financial health. That included the hiring of Dr. William Frame as interim CFO.
“We’re excited to have someone of Bill’s caliber on board. His expertise will be invaluable during this time of transition,” Lindus said.
Frame, who in the past 20 years has served as the CFO for Pacific Lutheran University near Tacoma, Washington, and as president of Augsburg College in Minneapolis, started in early December. He replaces Don Lewis, former vice president of finance and administration, who resigned last month.
One of Foss’ top priorities will be to work with Frame, interim CFO, and others to resolve the short-term fiscal issues. Progress has already been made as new financial controls and management systems have been introduced. A plan will be implemented to enhance the seminary’s financial strength and viability, leveraging the strong financial assets that are already in place.
Foss believes these changes will help right the ship. “I don’t anticipate any problem attracting people of the current quality,” he said. “If we were trying to hide or minimize the struggle, then people could be concerned, but we’re not.
“We are taking the transition very seriously. What we do next matters more than what has happened before,” he said. “Our faculty is discussing curriculum revision to meet the challenges of pastors for the future, not just for the past or present.”
“I live in reality-based hope, and I have that hope for Luther Seminary.”

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