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President Ditzler to accept new assignment after academic year

Jeff Rankin

After nine years at the helm of Monmouth College, Mauri Ditzler has announced he will step down as president at the end of the current academic year to pursue a new challenge as president of Albion College in Albion, Mich.

A private liberal arts college founded by the Methodist Church in 1835, Albion has an enrollment of 1,350 and an endowment of more than $160 million. He will begin his duties there July 1, 2014.

Since coming to Monmouth in 2005 from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., where he had served as dean, Ditzler has spearheaded numerous initiatives aimed at improving the college’s academic environment and fiscal stability. Among them are:

* Achieving record-setting enrollment
* Leading a strategic planning process that resulted in increased focus on academics
* Developing a campus master plan and a business plan
* Overseeing construction of the $40 million Center for Science and Business
* Building two new residence halls and enhanced athletic facilities
* Renewing the college’s focus on exploring vocation
* Increasing endowment market value 54 percent during the economic downturn
* Developing a new model for faculty hiring called “Triads”
* Implementing the largest capital campaign in the college’s history

Although a key initial objective for Ditzler’s Monmouth presidency had been to construct a new science building, he does not consider the recent completion of the $40 million Center for Science and Business to be his most significant achievement. “My biggest accomplishment I probably won’t know for 10 years,” he observed, “but I believe it will have to do with the intellectual culture on campus. I am most proud that while I was here there was the emergence of a new academic focus, coupled with a belief among the student body that we could change the world.”

Beginning his tenure shortly after Monmouth’s adoption of a new curriculum, Ditzler said some of his greatest satisfaction came from suggesting ideas to faculty for enhancing the academic structure. “The faculty were so creative—crafting suggestions into wonderful ideas that I couldn’t have imagined,” he recalls. In addition to switching from a 5-5 to a 4-4 academic calendar, under which each course is more rigorous and requires more time and effort from students, he praised the faculty for its strong commitment to undergraduate research. “The creation of the SOFIA (Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activities) program, faculty-student research trips throughout the world, and new student intellectual ventures such as the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research are just a few of the initiatives that have made me extremely proud,” he said.

Ditzler believes that a second highlight of his presidency is a renewed focus on exploring vocation, or a calling in life. “It is an idea that was embraced by our Presbyterian founders, and it is an idea that is gaining new traction in the 21st century,” he said. “The current generation of students is more idealistic than previous ones. Today’s young people are not just thinking about the fastest route to a high-paying job; they are thinking about how they can change the world.” He is particularly excited about a recent grant that the college won from the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) that will help Monmouth students better explore their talents and career options.

Ditzler, who values innovation in education, is also proud of the Midwest Matters project that Monmouth launched in 2009. “The rich resources of the Midwest region hold great promise for the future of mankind,” he said, “and it is important that we not only acknowledge that fact but embrace it.” When challenged recently by the board of trustees to propose a bold initiative for the college, Ditzler worked with the faculty and the dean to devise a new hiring model for faculty he called “Triads,” under which new faculty would be hired in teams of three to teach and conduct research on important problems. The initial faculty triad will focus on the problem of food security—a critical issue that the Midwest may help solve.

In addition to his presidential duties at Monmouth, Ditzler chairs the executive committee of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, a prestigious 14-college consortium including Monmouth, and he is a member of the Presidents Council for NCAA Division III. He is a past chair of the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities. Richard Longworth, senior fellow of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, included Ditzler with the presidents of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan in a list of eight leaders “who are setting the Midwest’s agenda for the future.”

Ditzler, 60, said he had considered making Monmouth the last stop of his professional career and retiring to the fruit farm and B&B that he and his wife, Judi, own in southern Indiana, but he was not quite ready to permanently exchange his business suit for coveralls. At the same time, he was cognizant that college presidents tend to outstay their welcome after 10 years.

“As much as I would enjoy it, it wouldn’t be fair for me to stay here indefinitely,” he said. “I have essentially accomplished what I came here to do and now is the ideal time for another president, with a different set of skills and ideas, to lead Monmouth forward. I truly believe that the college is in the best position in its history, both in terms of academic quality and stability.”

Bill Goldsborough, chairman of Monmouth’s board of trustees, agrees. “The college is in excellent shape today,” he said. “After last year’s strong freshman class, our admissions team is continuing to build on that success, with additional year-over-year improvement in applications and admits. Our academic, residential housing and athletic facilities are in great shape, while the curb appeal of our campus has never been greater. Our current capital campaign is appropriately heavily focused on academics.”

While a search for Ditzler’s successor will commence immediately, Monmouth’s 13th president remains firmly focused on his current job. “We have much to accomplish in the next seven months,” he explained, “and I intend to remain fully engaged.”

Ditzler said that while he will be sad to leave and not watch all the seeds he has planted come to fruition, he looks forward to taking the lessons he has learned at Monmouth and building upon them at Albion.

“Monmouth College will hire a great president because the future is so bright for this institution,” he predicted.

About Mauri A. Ditzler

• Prior to coming to Monmouth, served six years as dean at Wabash College in Indiana, his undergraduate alma mater. At Wabash, he developed and helped raise more than $20 million in initial funding for a national Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts and played a key role in the design and construction of many academic facilities.

• From 1994 to 1999, made an impact in his first administrative post, as dean of arts and sciences at Millikin University in Illinois. He advanced curricular reforms, promoted undergraduate research, and helped envision and fundraise for a new science building.
• Had 15-year tenure as a chemistry professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, where he led a team that created a chemistry curriculum that became a widely adapted model and earned him a national teaching award. He also published regularly—often with students as co-authors—and secured funds for research and laboratory facilities.
• Graduated summa cum laude from Wabash College, majoring in chemistry and speech, and received his Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Duke University. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the science honorary Sigma Xi. He and his wife, Judith Ditzler, have three grown children.