DWU President Bob Duffett accepts job in PennsylvaniaBob Duffett, president of Dakota Wesleyan University since 2000, will leave the university in 2013 to become president of Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Robert “Bob” Duffett once said the students and staff at Dakota Wesleyan University have always chosen to “walk a different path,” to learn, achieve and serve.
Monday, after 12 years as president of the private college in Mitchell, Duffett announced he will take another path himself, as he has accepted the presidency of a university in Pennsylvania.
Duffett will become president at Eastern University, a private Christian school in St. Davids, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, in July.
In his DWU inaugural speech delivered May 4, 2001, at the conclusion of his first year as president, he spoke of what made and makes DWU a special place. Duffett said after he attended a presentation by two students, which generated a lively discussion, he said this to his wife Connie as they walked home:
“In the end it all comes down to this — a community of students, who think through the implications of powerful ideas guided by great faculty, coaches and mentors who are teaching them to research, write, speak, handle questions on their feet, and engage in critical and inferential reasoning,” he said in the speech. “That night I saw an example, admittedly a good one, of what we are doing. I think these students, and the thousands who have gone here in the past, have experienced the reality of ever increasing spiritual and intellectual power due to the power of a DWU education. This is our path. This is our destiny.”
Duffett came to DWU in June 2000 and oversaw a period of growth and development on the campus. He also forged a close relationship with DWU’s most famous alumnus, George McGovern, who came home to live on the campus and team with Duffett to build a new library named for the Democratic Party icon.
“It has been an absolute joy to serve the Dakota Wesleyan University Board of Trustees, students, faculty, staff and the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church these last 12 years,” Duffett said in a press release issued Monday morning. “My tenure at DWU has been the highlight of my ecclesial and higher education career.”
Duffett was not available for an interview Monday, but he and DWU Board of Trustees chairman Brad Pratt will address the DWU community in the Sherman Center at 11:30 a.m. today.
“Bob has had a very successful career at DWU,” Pratt, of Mankato, Minn., said in the same release. “The growth in our campus has been tremendous in the past 12 years, and we credit Bob’s vision and hard work with the success we’ve experienced.”
Lori Essig, DWU’s vice president for university relations, said Duffett had a major impact on the institution.
There were 692 students enrolled during the 2000-2001 school year, Duffett’s first as president, Essig said. There are 847 students enrolled now. DWU added a graduate studies program in 2004-2005.
Most noticeable to the public, he was a key figure in raising a great deal of money to bring new buildings to the campus.
“What you see in buildings is one thing,” Essig said. “There’s been a great commitment to building the annual fund, and he’s had a hand in that as well as the institutional advancement staff.”
Students who were interviewed on the DWU campus Monday afternoon spoke highly of the departing president.
“It’s sad that he’s going. He’s been a great president here,” said sophomore Abby Fossum, of Canton. “But I can understand why he’s ready to move on.”
“I have nothing but good things to say about Duffett,” said German Madueno, a Woodland, Calif, senior who graduates this month. Madueno was a member of the DWU men’s basketball team for three years and is on the coaching staff now.
He said he saw Duffett at games and practices and said the president “had a lot of school spirit.” Madueno said Duffett made it clear he cared about the students and DWU.
“I think he did a good job,” he said. “I like the direction the school is headed.”
Roger Musick, a Mitchell businessman, was a member of the DWU board when Duffett was hired. Musick said the board asked Duffett to focus on fundraising and college administration.
“He’s done a great job in both counts,” he said. “He’s done a great job for us.”
Musick said Duffett will be remembered for raising funds for the McGovern Library, residence hall projects and the new health sciences building, all of which he said were “huge advancements for DWU.”
But he said he was aware Duffett was looking to move on, and spoke with him in the past week. Musick said it’s understandable that Duffett would want to advance his career.
In his tenure at Wesleyan, Duffett completed the fundraising for the McGovern Library and oversaw its construction and internationally recognized dedication, and spearheaded several other key building projects:
- He secured the two largest gifts in the university’s history, $5 million each, for the Glenda K. Corrigan Health Sciences Center, which will open in fall 2013.
- He led four major renovation projects on campus: the nursing department, Allen Hall and Dayton Hall dormitories, and Wagner Chapel.
- He led three major building projects in addition to the library and health sciences center: the Sherman Center, Jackson Plaza and new student apartments.
“I know Bob has a reputation as a great fundraiser,” Pratt said, “but equally as important has been his commitment to academic excellence and student transformation.”
During Duffett’s presidency, DWU saw these improvements and additions in its academic program:
- Three new academic centers of excellence were created: the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship, the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service, and the Center for Talent Development;
- Two new sites for nursing education were opened, one in Huron and one in Sioux Falls;
- Articulation agreements with Mitchell Technical Institute and Southeast Technical Institute were forged;
- DWU is in a stronger institutional fiscal position, according to the university;
- The academic profile of DWU students has improved;
- The university was reorganized into three main colleges: the College of Arts and Humanities, the College of Leadership and Public Service, and the Donna Starr Christen College of Healthcare, Fitness and Sciences.
He faced challenges over the years, too.
In July 2000, a microburst blew the roof off the Christen Family Recreation/Wellness Center and the physical plant office. The campus staff and the Mitchell community worked together to clean up the damage.
Duffett successfully made the case that the Regents Scholarships for South Dakota students should be available to any student meeting the criteria, regardless of whether they chose a public or private institution and “was instrumental,” according to his DWU biography, in passing the LEAP legislation, a need-based scholarship for South Dakotans.
Duffett served on the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Student Aid Committee and was chairman of the Great Plains Athletic Conference presidents’ organization.
Duffett also taught REL 315, American Religions, in 2011, and REL 314, World Religions, during the 2012 spring semester. He also wrote numerous columns for The Daily Republic and other South Dakota newspapers.
Erik Nockleby, a senior from Roseville, Minn., took a religion class from Duffett and said he was a “good teacher and a good guy.”
“I had Dr. Duffett as a teacher and it was a well-run class,” Nockleby said.
After 12 years in Mitchell, Duffett signaled he was ready to move on this year, as he twice was a finalist to lead another university. Earlier this year he was a finalist for the presidency of the University of Indianapolis, but he said he withdrew his name from consideration.
This time, he remained in the running, and on Monday he made his departure from DWU official.
Linda Olson, Eastern’s executive director of communications, said it is a liberal arts and sciences school that was founded in 1925. Its enrollment is about 4,400, up from 2,400 when outgoing President David R. Black was hired.
Olson said Duffett arrived on campus Sunday and prepared for the announcement. It was held Monday morning, followed by a “meet-and-greet” event and a luncheon before he and his wife returned to South Dakota.
“We’re very excited about Dr. Duffett coming,” Olson said.
In November 2011, Black announced his plan to retire in the spring of 2012 after 15 years in the post, but agreed to remain for a 16th year as the university sought a replacement. Olson said Black will depart after Duffett assumes the presidency on July 1.
The new post will apparently mean more money for Duffett, who was paid $164,320 in 2011, according to publicly available Internal Revenue Service documents. Black was paid $286,260 in 2011, according to The Chronicle for Higher Education.
Duffett’s children, David and Allison “Allie” Duffett, are in college — David in Florida and Allie in Pennsylvania. Duffett’s wife Connie worked part-time in the DWU office of institutional advancement.
The move will return Duffett, a Youngstown, Ohio, native, closer to his roots. He received his master of theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. degree from the University of Iowa.