Augustana University President Rob Oliver has announced he will retire on July 31, 2017.
Oliver, 62, shared the news with Augustana faculty and staff at a meeting this afternoon in the University’s Chapel of Reconciliation.
“For my wife, Angie, and I, the opportunity to serve Augustana has brought us incredible joy. Someone once said, ‘If you want an interesting life, surround yourself with interesting people.’ This campus is filled with the most interesting, passionate, dedicated and innovative people we’ve ever met. We feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with our amazing professors, to work alongside our talented staff, and to watch our students grow and develop lives of meaning and purpose. It’s been an honor and a privilege, truly.”
— Rob Oliver
Oliver’s retirement will mark the end of 25 years of service to Augustana. He has served as president for 11 years. Prior to being named Augustana’s 23rd president in 2006, he served on the faculty as chair of the Business Administration department for two years. Before that, he was a member of Augustana’s Board of Trustees for 12 years.
Becky Blue ’81, chair of the Augustana Board of Trustees, praised Oliver for his leadership, vision and humility.
“In its 156-year history, Augustana has been blessed with great leaders — outstanding luminaries from different backgrounds, who each worked to advance the mission of this great place. Rob has been a phenomenal president. He has been the right president at the right time. He has led with faith and a servant’s heart, a great sense of community, a commitment to excellence, and a deep understanding of connecting liberal arts education to a world that needs it.
“We often say that Augustana is the place where great thinkers come to dream big dreams and forge new pathways toward a brighter tomorrow,” Blue said. “Rob has been one of Augie’s greatest thinkers and one of our best dreamers. His ability to think strategically and communicate effectively, while inspiring and motivating others are the reasons why he’s such a great leader.
“You won’t hear him talk about his accomplishments though,” Blue continued. “That’s because Rob is best known for shining his light on the work of others. His encouragement, his compassion, and his humility make him a joy to work with, and a joy to work for.
“The Augustana Board of Trustees extends its deepest thanks and gratitude to Rob and Angie Oliver for their service to Augustana,” Blue said. “And we wish them all the best in their future endeavors.”
Major accomplishments during Oliver’s tenure as president include:
- Record-setting financial support, even in the midst of a national recession. The $180 million in cash, pledges and deferred gifts received between the 2005-2006 fiscal year and the 2015-2016 fiscal year is the largest ever received by Augustana during a 10-year period.
- Significant projects on campus, made possible by the receipt of unprecedented charitable gifts. Major projects included:
- A $74 million endowment — up from $47 million a decade ago. As a result, Augustana is able to award scholarships and financial aid to 100 percent of its full-time students.
- Significant growth in Augustana’s online educational offerings for undergraduate and graduate students as well as adult learners.
- A sophisticated and complex plan to steer Augustana to the next horizon, developed in response to widespread enrollment challenges among colleges and universities nationwide — particularly private institutions, including Augustana, and public discourse about the importance and value of a college degree.
- Horizons 2019, Augustana’s five-year strategic plan designed to help the institution find and develop ways to serve more students and foster their success; to provide substantive and innovative educational experiences; to cultivate strategic partnerships; to steward human, physical and financial resources; and to pursue greater brand awareness and recognition.
- A name change from College to University, designed to better represent the breadth and depth of undergraduate, graduate and adult learning happening on campus, as well as the direction charted for the institution by its strategic plan.
- Significant growth in the University’s Undergraduate Research, Performing & Visual Arts, and Study Abroad programs.
- The introduction of Civitas, the University’s honors program, as well as the development of a new core curriculum, new academic majors and programs, and new centers on campus, including:
- The Office of Graduate and Continuing Education, which oversees all of Augustana’s graduate degree programs, including its newest master’s programs in genetic counseling and professional accountancy.
- The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, an initiative designed to build strategic partnerships with industry leaders, business heads and curators of creativity.
- The Student Success Center, a central place for career and academic support services — a hub for educational and vocational engagement.
- Increased enrollment. Augustana’s headcount for Fall 2016 is the highest in 26 years.
- Major accomplishments in Viking athletics, including two NCAA national championships, seven straight seasons of top-15 finishes in the Learfield Cup Standings, and four seasons as the NSIC’s top athletic program. In 2015, Augustana announced Women’s Swimming as the University’s 19th sport.
- Partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, health care centers, arts agencies, schools, churches and other industries in Sioux Falls and throughout the region — all of which provide internship and career opportunities for Augustana students. As a result, a large percentage of AU students not originally from South Dakota choose to stay in the state to build their careers after graduation, making Augustana a net importer of intellectual capital and a key contributor to workforce development and the local labor market.
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