Jon E. Quistgaard, president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, announced Wednesday that he plans to retire in mid-summer 2010, after nearly nine years at the helm of the university and seven years at the college.
Quistgaard, who holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Arizona, is BSU's ninth president and NTC's third president.
"It has been an honor to serve as president within these dynamic institutions," Quistgaard said in a press release. "Working with the faculty, staff and students has been truly a privilege and a rewarding experience."
Commenting on his upcoming retirement, Quistgaard noted, "The timing of my decision comes at a good juncture for the university and the college. Both are on an upward trajectory with strong enrollments.
"Their budgets are solid, especially considering the state's economic condition. Both institutions, because of their commitment to excellence and focus on students, are enjoying a broadening of their reputations, not only in the state, but also beyond Minnesota."
Announcing his retirement now, Quistgaard said, also provides ample time for a national search to be conducted and a successor identified.
Quistgaard began his 30-year career at BSU in admissions.
Since then he has served in several capacities at the university, including dean of graduate studies, associate vice president for academic affairs and vice president for academic and student affairs.
He became BSU's ninth president in August 2001 and was named president of the technical college two years later.
"As the university celebrates its 90th anniversary, it is an excellent time to reflect on the tremendous strides both campus communities have made in the past decade," Quistgaard said.
"At Bemidji State, we have celebrated the opening of new buildings such as the American Indian Resource Center and the renovation of others such as Bridgeman Hall, Linden Hall, nursing's state-of-the-art clinical resource center in Memorial Hall and, most recently, Sattgast Hall, with its high-tech science classrooms and laboratories."
Quistgaard also noted that a current construction initiative under way is designed to relocate the university's business-related programs and outreach areas to a central campus location with the renovation of Memorial Hall and the upper level of Hobson Memorial Union.
"(Quistgaard) is very involved and ever-present. I think a lot of people appreciated that," said Stephanie Hendricks, office manager at the American Indian Resource Center on the BSU campus. "He showed great dedication to students and the university."
Besides building or renovating facilities, the university has sharpened its identity with a focus on the signature themes of environmental stewardship, civic engagement and global and multicultural understanding, he said.
"Today, there is a growing sense of importance surrounding civic engagement or service, and it is permeating campus life," he said. "Individual involvement is critical to the future of our participatory democracy and our ability to resolve important issues in this challenging economic climate.
"Overall, Bemidji State continues to add new programs, strengthen its student services areas and grow external resources through its partnerships with help from friends of the university, its alumni and donors."
NTC has also experienced significant change and growth, Quistgaard said.
Founded in 1965, the college now enrolls more than 1,600 students with more than 45 programs, many of which can be completed in fewer than two years on campus and online. While the college serves recent high school graduates, it also serves those who are looking to advance their careers with additional education or those who are seeking new careers.
"With the recent economic downturn, Northwest Technical College has been making a significant difference in the lives of dislocated workers who need re-training or the updating of skills to be marketable in today's workforce," Quistgaard said. "The college has enabled many of these learners to remain in northwest Minnesota."
NTC has also pursued an aggressive facilities plan. A new addition was finished in 2008 and plans are advancing to complete the final stage of a three-phase industrial technology renovation.
"The college's transformation over the past several years is a tribute to the faculty and staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure learners gain the 21st-century skills that lead to good jobs, productive careers and satisfying lives," Quistgaard said.
"The creation of the college's foundation and the support of its partners is also a testament to the growing stature of Northwest Technical College," he said.
A nationwide search for a new president will begin soon.
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor James H. McCormick will appoint a chairperson who will form a search advisory committee. The committee will seek comment and opinion from the campus community and community leaders before recommending at least three candidates to the chancellor. The chancellor will forward his recommendation for a new president to the Board of Trustees, which will make the final decision.
"I have a lot of respect for him. It will be sad to see him go," said Hendricks. "He is the university."