President David Anderson ’74 announced his plans to retire via email to the St. Olaf community on May 7, 2021. Anderson will complete his contract in 2023 after serving as president of the College for 17 years.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve our college as president. I have served an unusually long time, I hope to good purpose. The end of my contract is the right time for a leadership transition.” Anderson wrote in an email to the Messenger.
Anderson’s announcement came after the Board of Regents held its final meeting of the year on May 5. In the email, Anderson said that it is unusual for an announcement like this to be made this far in advance, but that the Board wants to take time to prepare for the leadership transition, and to be transparent with the St. Olaf community.
“Choosing the next president of St. Olaf is the most important duty our Board of Regents has. They wisely plan to be very thoughtful and inclusive in that process. Being thoughtful takes time. Being inclusive means being open and transparent, and that would be impossible to do if we weren’t being public about my timetable,” Anderson wrote.
This announcement follows a tumultuous year, in which many students have expressed discontent with Anderson and the entire administration.
Following multiple resignations of faculty of color in recent years, community members organized and vocalized their concerns about the mistreatment of BIPOC faculty, students and staff and demanded action and accountability from the institution throughout the year.
On July 1, 2020, a petition created by Oles for Racial Awareness, Change and Equity (ORACE) calling for new leadership at St. Olaf received 1,516 signatures.
The petition called on the St. Olaf administration to acknowledge and address issues of racism on campus. “To humbly acknowledge its [St. Olaf’s] cultural and structural racism and whole-heartedly pursue becoming an anti-racist institution” ORACE members wrote in the petition description.
The petition called for the Board of Regents to immediately begin looking for a new president. “We call on the St. Olaf Board of Regents to initiate an immediate search for a new president and provost who have the qualities, experience and skills necessary in this critical transformational moment.”
There is no information on how or if this petition or the protests impacted the decision for Anderson and the Board of Regents to announce Anderson’s retirement.
The Board of Regents, under Board Chair Jay Lund, will conduct a search for a new president. The Board will share more information about the selection process later this summer.
Anderson emphasized his eagerness to continue working on equity and inclusion efforts before he retires.
“In the meantime, there is a lot of work left to be done, and I’m all in. We need to prioritize our equity and inclusion efforts to improve the experiences and retention of young professionals and students of color, successfully complete the Ole Avenue Project and ready this college for the transition ahead,” Anderson wrote in his email to the community.