100 years in River Forest, Concordia begins search for new president

Centennial celebration coincides with retirement

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By Deb Kadin

As it celebrates its centenary in River Forest and its 150th as an institution this fall, Concordia University Chicago has begun the process of finding its next president.

A nine-member search committee, led by Rev. Gary Schalk, chairman of the University's Board of Regents, is tasked with finding the replacement for John F. Johnson, who retired Aug. 16 after serving a decade as Concordia's 10th president.

By Oct. 30 the committee will have the names of candidates they will screen in late January. The university community already has been informed of the process and provided input on the qualities it wants to see in Johnson's replacement.

Nominees for the person who will become Concordia's 11th president will come from:

  • Any congregation in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, through their pastors;
  • The Concordia University Chicago Board of Regents;
  • The Concordia faculty as a group;
  • The governing board that oversees the entire Concordia University system.

"We are not soliciting nominations from any other source," said Eric Matanyi, assistant vice president for university communications and marketing.

When screening candidates is completed, the committee expects to have selected seven to 12 qualified applicants. The top three candidates will come to campus in March, Matanyi said.

The new president is expected to be named by the end of April, around a year after Johnson submitted his intention to leave Concordia.

"We will take the appropriate amount of time to select the right candidate," Matanyi said. "The primary goal is to find the best candidate for this institution."

To ensure "continuity of leadership," Alan Meyer, senior president for planning and research search, is serving as interim president, Matanyi said.

In an open letter he presented to the university community this summer, Johnson noted that Concordia stands in a strong position to continue its mission of "equipping students to serve and lead with integrity, creativity, competence, and compassion in a diverse, interconnected and increasingly urbanized church and world."

Schalk said during a web conference Sept. 3 that Johnson's unique style helped the university face its challenges, and as a result "we are better equipped to handle them," he said.

The new president will be a visionary, someone with outstanding organizational, fiscal and academic leadership skills, according to the call for nominations provided by the school.

In addition, the new university president must have a collaborative leadership style and be able to engage with the many groups affiliated with Concordia.

It was Johnson's collaborative approach that helped direct the university through economic challenges and academic growth. The university this year had a record freshman enrollment, Matanyi said. And for the fourth consecutive year, undergraduate and graduate enrollment topped 5,500.

Finding a new university president could be on the minds of the community Saturday as the campus throws a celebration of its 100 years in River Forest and 150 years as an institution.

The party will start at 10 a.m. on the Pillars Lawn on campus, 7400 Augusta St. Family games, face painting, a bounce house, magic, story-telling, food and more will be available for free.

A short ceremony will begin at noon that will recognize the centennial, dignitaries in attendance and key members of Concordia-Chicago's past, present and future.

The university band will perform a pops concert from 1 to 2 p.m. And family activities will continue until 1 pm, and food will be available until 2 p.m.

"We invite the community on to our campus and thank them for their support," Matanyi said.

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