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Search for President Anderson’s successor begins

The search to find a new president for St. Olaf has officially begun. On Oct. 15, Board of Regents chair Jay Lund ’81,  announced in an email to students that the board has formed a Presidential Search Committee to find President David Anderson’s ’74 successor. Anderson announced in May 2021 that he plans to retire at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year.

The committee consists of eight current and former members of the Board of Regents, two faculty members, two staff members, and one student. They will begin holding meetings in a few weeks in order to select a new president before Anderson’s retirement in May 2023.

The committee will work with Storbeck Search, an executive search and consulting firm. The firm is currently conducting presidential searches for Emerson College, Hampton University, and Lake Forest College among others, according to their website.

The committee plans to involve the St. Olaf community in the search. “Everyone has a stake and a say, so I believe there is big community engagement that will occur in the spring semester,” said Andy Nelson ’23, the student representative to the committee and president of the Student Government Association (SGA).

Professor Louis Epstein, one of the faculty members on the committee and faculty representative-elect to the Board of Regents, emphasized that the community the committee plans to reach goes well beyond those on campus. “It encompasses current students, staff, and faculty, it encompasses alums, regents, donors, just the whole gamut,” Epstein said.

There is no official word yet on how the committee will engage with students or the broader community, although Nelson raised the possibility of conducting a town hall during the Spring semester. Lund indicated in his email that community engagement, as well as updates on the committee’s progress, will begin in Jan. 2022.

Epstein and Nelson also spoke to the transparency they expect to see in the search process. “Everything is meant to be as transparent as possible, that’s why this is being announced so early,” Nelson said. Anderson announced his retirement earlier than is typical for college presidents. In his initial email to students on May 7, Anderson said that “It is not common for the conversation about a leadership transition at a college to begin openly this far in advance of the event itself, but as the Board of Regents charts the future of this college and plans for its next leader, it is important to have time to gather input and prepare the college for the transition.”

The search committee will have more than a year to select a new president before Anderson’s retirement.

“I don’t go into this process imagining that there is a smoke-filled back room where decisions are being made without anyone else’s knowledge. That is not possible in this case, and I will fight to make it as transparent a process as possible,” Epstein said.

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