SJU President Dietrich Reinhart announces resignation

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October 15, 2008

Dietrich Reinhart, OSB

SJU President Emeritus Dietrich Reinhart passes away (12/29/08)

Media coverage: Minnesota Public Radio | Minneapolis Star Tribune | KARE-TV | WJON-AM | KNSI-AM | WKBT-TV | The Chronicle of Higher Education | NAICU

St. Cloud Times photo gallery from Nov. 5 Anointing Service for Br. Dietrich

Br. Dietrich bio and selected speeches

Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, president of Saint John’s University since 1991, has announced his decision to resign as president to focus more fully on his health, having recently been diagnosed with melanoma. Reinhart’s resignation will take effect upon the appointment of an interim president for the University.

“When I applied for the presidency of Saint John’s eighteen years ago I set out simply to care for a beloved educational community that has been created and sustained by efforts, both noteworthy and mundane, over many generations,” said Reinhart. “It has been an honor to serve as the president of Saint John’s.” 

“The entire Board of Regents is grateful for Br. Dietrich’s generous and long-standing leadership as the eleventh president of Saint John’s,” wrote Jim Frey, chair of the Board of Regents, in an announcement to the campus community. “We deeply regret the sudden conclusion of his service, but fully support him in his decision. Along with thousands of alumni and friends we extend our prayers, support and good wishes to him as he takes the next step in his life journey.” 

In a statement to the campus community, the Board of Regents today announced its intent to establish The Benedictine Institute at Saint John’s University. The Board has asked Reinhart to serve as the founding director of the Institute and to be the inaugural holder of a newly endowed chair, the Chair of Benedictine Culture and Life. Reinhart has indicated a willingness to take up these responsibilities as his program of treatment and healing allows. As President Emeritus, Reinhart will help strengthen the Catholic and Benedictine character of Saint John’s University.  

“In addition to working with Br. Dietrich, a monastic classmate and friend, I have benefitted so much from living and working with this monk who has such an amazing ability to move between the big picture and the critical details, between the wild and crazy idea and the needs for the day,” said Abbot John Klassen, OSB, chancellor of Saint John’s University. “Even though he was president of SJU, Dietrich has always been working for the good of all of Saint John’s.” 

During Reinhart’s tenure as president, enrollment has grown by nearly nine percent and the academic profile of entering students has risen dramatically; the university’s endowment has grown from $36 million to just over $145 million and Saint John’s has successfully completed the largest capital campaign in its history, One Generation to the Next: The Campaign for Saint John’s.

Other significant undertakings during his presidency include the designation, with Saint John’s Abbey, of the entire 2,700 acres of Saint John’s campus as an Arboretum and the commissioning of calligrapher Donald Jackson to handwrite and illuminate The Saint John’s Bible.

Under Reinhart’s leadership, the Saint John’s campus has undergone a physical transformation, including the construction of a new Sexton Commons campus center; expansion and renovation of SJU's athletic facilities; renovation of the Quadrangle, Saint Benet Hall and Emmaus Hall; renovation of the Peter Engel Science Center and construction of a new science building; construction of a Flynntown Community Center; and construction of apartment-style housing on campus in Saint Vincent Court, and Saints Placid and Maur Houses.

In collaboration with its educational partner, the College of Saint Benedict, Reinhart co-led the creation of the first joint strategic plan, creating a permanent relationship of interdependence and a partnership unique in all of higher education.

“It is a privilege to have worked with Br. Dietrich as partners and colleagues, and it is an even greater privilege to call him my friend,” said MaryAnn Baenninger, president of the College of Saint Benedict. “I will always be grateful to Br. Dietrich for the kindness, wisdom, and dedication he showed during our five years of work together. My thoughts are with him as he embarks on this especially important period of his life.”

Once an interim president has been appointed, the Board of Regents will initiate a search for the 12th president of Saint John’s University.

Reinhart graduated from Saint John’s in 1971 with a degree in history. He professed as a monk of Saint John's Abbey in 1972. He holds master's and doctorate degrees in history from Brown University. Prior to becoming president, Reinhart served as dean of the college at Saint John's and, before that, taught European history.

 

Statement from Jim Frey, chair of the Saint John’s University Board of Regents

October 16, 2008 

TO: Members of the Saint John’s and Saint Benedict’s Communities

FROM: Jim Frey, Chair, SJU Board of Regents
 
Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB has written the letter that follows below announcing his decision to resign as President of Saint John’s University in order to focus more fully on his health, having recently been diagnosed with melanoma. The entire Board of Regents is grateful for Br. Dietrich’s generous and long-standing leadership as the eleventh president of Saint John’s. We deeply regret the sudden conclusion of his service, but fully support him in his decision. Along with thousands of alumni and friends we extend our prayers, support and good wishes to him as he takes the next step in his life journey. 

The Board of Regents has long been thinking of ways to honor Br. Dietrich upon the completion of his service as President.  We have drawn strength from his deep commitment to the Catholic and Benedictine character of Saint John’s and we want his efforts to continue to bear fruit for generations to come.  Therefore, a little sooner than we had planned, the Board of Regents today announces its intent to establish The Benedictine Institute at Saint John’s University.  The Board has asked Br. Dietrich to serve as the founding director of the Institute and to be the inaugural holder of a newly endowed chair, the Chair of Benedictine Culture and Life. 

Br. Dietrich has indicated a willingness to take up these responsibilities as his program of treatment and healing allows.  We cannot think of a better role for him to play as President Emeritus than to help strengthen the Catholic and Benedictine character of this extraordinary University.  We look forward to collaborating with him in this essential task of tending to the heart of Saint John’s educational mission.  And we ask you to continue to keep Br. Dietrich and the entire Saint John’s community in your prayers.

Br. Dietrich’s resignation will take effect upon the appointment of an interim president for the University. Once an interim president has been appointed, the Board of Regents will initiate a search for the twelfth president of Saint John’s University. 

Jim Frey
Chair, Board of Regents
Saint John’s University

 

Letter from Dietrich Reinhart, OSB, president of Saint John’s University

October 16, 2008       

James Frey
Chair, Board of Regents
Saint John’s University

Dear Jim,

I write to communicate my intent to resign from the presidency of Saint John’s University.  The doctors at the Mayo Clinic  have recently diagnosed that I have malignant metastatic melanoma to the lungs and brain.  In the words of a venerable ancestor within the monastery, the situation is impossible, but not hopeless.

When I applied for the presidency of Saint John’s eighteen years ago I set out simply to care for a beloved educational community that has been created and sustained by efforts, both noteworthy and mundane, over many generations.  Nothing I have achieved would have been possible without such a durable and resilient foundation, cared for so brilliantly by a dedicated faculty, by generous staff and administrators, and by the principled and passionate leadership of the Board of Regents.  All of our efforts have focused on creating, in the words of the great dean, Fr. Virgil Michel, graduates who are “self-propelled and self-impelled to the greatest extent possible.”  In this work we have been supported and led at every turn by the alumni and friends of Saint John’s whose lives are such a lively and enduring inspiration.  And I rejoice that our horizons have been greatly enriched by pursuing this great educational mission in concert with the College of Saint Benedict.

It is time for Saint John’s University to seek new leadership.  The University is ready for this new chapter in its history.  It has been an honor to serve as the president of Saint John’s.  As I now shift my focus to deal with these newly critical issues of my health and well-being, I am buoyed up by the prayers and encouragement, the support and love of so many people.  I am eager to be of help in advancing the vitality of Saint John’s University in the future in whatever roles the Board and my successor determine to be of most value.  Alas, we hold this treasure in earthen vessels.  And for that reason I end this letter expressing my deep gratitude to all who have made my service over these last decades possible.  I am convinced that the best is yet to come.

God bless!

Dietrich Reinhart, OSB
President
Saint John’s University

Note: For updates on Br. Dietrich’s health, please visit his Caring Bridge Web site at www.caringbridge.org/visit/brotherdietrich