Saint John’s University

Office of the President

Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D.

Dr. Bruess became the first person to serve as president of both the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University on July 1, 2022. He is responsible for leading two strong, respected Catholic, Benedictine, residential liberal arts institutions with distinct but supporting missions. 

Bruess recently served as the 8th president of St. Norbert College, a nationally renowned Catholic liberal arts school with over 2,000 students in De Pere, Wisconsin.

During his tenure there, he guided St. Norbert to record enrollments and the most diverse student body in the college’s history; visioned and implemented campus-wide focus on student success and retention; launched an innovative strategic planning process; inspired new academic offerings including integrated studies, data analytics, actuarial science and pathway partnerships for post-baccalaureate programs; introduced educational-centric financial management; created systemic change toward integrated equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging; increased focus on outcomes, evidence-based decision-making and assessment; developed a new fundraising campaign focused on student learning and doubling the college’s endowment; and guided the St. Norbert College board of trustees toward more generative governance. 

Prior to taking the presidency at St. Norbert, Brian spent nearly 22 years at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, rising to serve with distinction as the executive vice president and chief operating officer. Shortly after leaving St. Catherine to take over at St. Norbert, he was honored with the 2017 Presidents’ Steward Award at the Minnesota Campus Compact’s Annual Summit and Award ceremony. 

While at St. Kate’s, Brian was involved in achieving comprehensive accreditation and laudatory praise from two Higher Learning Commission self-studies and site visits (2003, 2013); unprecedented enrollment growth of 27% (women’s colleges nationally had seen a 21% decline during those years) including 17 consecutive years of record enrollment; sustained success in building the diversity of the university’s enrollment (racial and ethnic, nonregional, generational, socio-economic and degree-level); establishing a collaborative, innovative approach to academic, student affairs, enrollment and financial innovation and planning (resulting in 17 new academic programs in six years); and designing and implementing a comprehensive academic program-prioritization process. 

Brian earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Norbert College (1990) and his master’s and doctoral degrees in college student personnel/research and evaluation from Ohio University. 

Brian and his wife of 30 years, Carol Bruess, Ph.D., make their home at Renner House on the College of Saint Benedict campus. Carol is Professor Emerita of Communication and the former Director of Family Studies at the University of St. Thomas. She is an active scholar of relationship communication, the author of five books with two more forthcoming, and a highly sought speaker with a popular TEDx-Minneapolis talk. 

Brian and Carol have two young adult children: Tony, a 2018 Stanford University graduate and tech entrepreneur living in New York; and Gracie, a 2022 graduate of Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. 

About Saint John’s University

Saint John’s University students achieve excellent outcomes. Four-year completion rates at SJU significantly exceed averages for private and public colleges regionally and nationally. Fully 97% of graduates report that within a year of earning their degree, they are either employed, pursuing a graduate degree or in a full-time volunteer position. In 2021, for the third year in a row, Saint John’s was named the best college for employment placement in Minnesota by Zippia, a career website. Saint John’s is ranked #10 on the 2022 Money Magazine list of Best Colleges in the Midwest and is in the top 50 of Washington Monthly’s 2021 list of national liberal arts colleges. In 2022, SJU was once again ranked first for return on investment in Minnesota among private four-year colleges by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.