by Dennis Dalman
MaryAnn Baenninger, 14th president of the College of St. Benedict, has informed the CSB Board of Trustees she will step down from the presidency on June 30, 2014.
“I’ve made the decision this is the right time for a transition for me and for St. Ben’s,” Baenninger said. “We will have concluded our centennial celebration year and a very successful decade for the college. My husband Ron and I are also ready to be closer geographically to our children and grandchildren at this point in our lives.
“We will forever love and remain connected to the wonderful community at St. Ben’s, and in Central Minnesota,” she said. “I’m exceedingly proud of the many accomplishments during my tenure and grateful to all who have supported me and the aspirational vision I’ve had for the College of St. Benedict. I extend a special thank you to the board of trustees, the CSB cabinet and our faculty and staff for joining with me to provide an exemplary liberal-arts education for our students.”
Baenninger remains open about her future plans but said she plans to live in proximity to family.
The CSB Board of Trustees will begin a search immediately with the expectation a new president will take office on July 1.
“The college’s accomplishments under MaryAnn’s leadership are too numerous to list comprehensively,” said Lynn Newman, chair of the CSB Board of Trustees. “She has elevated the college nationally, financially and academically in extraordinary ways. She has been a champion for our students and passionate about our mission as a residential liberal-arts college.”
Baenninger began at CSB on Aug. 1, 2004. She has the most years of service of any of the lay presidents to lead the college.
Baenninger leaves CSB in a strong position, overseeing an impressive set of accomplishments:
• Financial. During her tenure, the largest capital campaign in the college’s history was completed in 2008, the college’s endowment doubled. Its annual fund grew by 62 percent, its bond rating was upgraded, its net operating revenue increased and annual contributions to capital reserves increased by more than $1 million.
• Enrollment. CSB has experienced increases in the academic preparedness of entering students, a more national and international geographic profile and a marked increase in student diversity. When Baenninger arrived at CSB in 2004, the entering class included 22 American students of color. In fall 2013 there were 99 first-year American students of color, representing 18 percent of the entering class.
• Facilities. Under Baenninger’s leadership, the college built the $12 million Gorecki Dining and Conference Center and Centennial Commons, the first LEED Platinum student residences in Minnesota. In addition, the award-winning Benedicta Arts Center underwent an $8.9-million expansion and renovation.
• Academics. Many academic advances during the past decade have been transformational for CSB, including the establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 2009, the 2012 Sen. Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization, the Intercultural LEAD program and the Marie and Robert Jackson Fellows Program. Significant National Science Foundation grants were awarded to create the Mathematics, Physics, Computer Science Research Scholars (MapCores) and Future Chemists Scholarships and Support (FoCuS) programs.
During her tenure as CSB president, Baenninger has served on numerous boards including Minnesota Public Radio, Council of Independent Colleges, American University of Sharjah, Women’s College Coalition and the Minnesota Private College Council, on which she served as chair.
Baenninger’s leadership at CSB has been recognized with local and national awards. In 2010, she was honored by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal as an “Industry Leader” at the Women in Business Awards, and in 2013, she received the William M. Burke Presidential Award for Excellence in Experiential Education, presented by the National Society for Experiential Education.
Baenninger was a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, leading a group of now 675 college and university presidents in formally committing to sharply reduce and eventually eliminate all of the college’s global warming emissions.
Newman and Barbara Melsen, trusteeship committee chair, will co-chair the presidential search, and the search committee will include representatives from all constituencies of the college.
Campus updates regarding the search will be posted on a dedicated website that will go live in the near future.
“The board of trustees is appreciative of MaryAnn’s remarkable tenure and I extend my thanks to her on their behalf,” Newman said. “We are committed to an open and comprehensive search process that will attract the best candidates to the position. MaryAnn’s leadership will have an enduring impact for generations to come. I am optimistic about the future of St. Ben’s as we conclude our first century and move into our second century of high-quality education for women because of MaryAnn’s decade of service.”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.