HARRISONBURG, Va. — Eastern Mennonite University President Loren E. Swartzendruber announced April 30 that he plans to retire June 30, 2016.
The date will mark 13 years of leadership as the university’s eighth president and 33 years in Mennonite higher education, including 10 years as president of Hesston (Kan.) College.
“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have served the cause of Christian higher education for more than three decades,” Swartzendruber said. “There is never a perfect time to leave this role, but I am confident that EMU and its wonderful team of faculty and staff is well-positioned to thrive in the coming years under the leadership of a new president.”
To the EMU community, Swartzendruber offered personal thanks.
“No president stands alone,” he said. “Everything that has been accomplished during my years here was built on the foundation of those who pre-ceded me, and those accomplishments are equally the result of strong teamwork and support from so many contributors.”
Swartzendruber also noted the contributions of his wife, Pat, who retired from a 35-year career in health and social services before his appointment to the presidency.
“With five grandchildren arriving in the past six years, it’s time for us to be more available to them,” he said.
Swartzendruber advised the EMU board of trustees of his planned retirement at its fall meeting.
“Under President Swartzendruber’s leadership, EMU has grown in enrollment and has expanded its reach in its mission to educate leaders throughout the world,” said board chair Andrew Dula. “We are deeply grateful for his strong commitment to our mission and values amid an increasingly challenging higher education environment.”
During Swartzendruber’s presidency, enrollment grew by 30 percent, from 1,436 in the 2002-03 academic year to 1,870 in the fall of 2014. More than 4,000 students have graduated from EMU since 2004.
During his tenure, Swartzendruber’s support has contributed to the strengthening of core programs, including the cross-cultural study requirement; science, technology, engineering and mathematics studies with a focus on sustainability; the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and its affiliated programs; and the seminary’s strong relationship with the United Methodist Church.
The Center for Interfaith Engagement was founded in 2009 to engage in collaborative multi-faith relationship-building.
More than $65 million has been raised for annual operations as well as for capital projects and the endowment.
New construction projects on campus include the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold-certified Cedarwood Residence Hall and an artificial turf field for soccer, field hockey and intramurals.
EMU purchased and renovated the 5,000-square-foot Nelson Good House to accommodate students at EMU’s Washington Community Scholars’ Center.
In keeping with EMU’s sustainability initiative, the first phase of a solar power project was completed. Older campus buildings have been renovated and repurposed. More than $8 million has been raised in a $10.3 million campaign to renovate the Suter Science Center, with the laboratory portion of the project on track for completion by July.
Life of service
Swartzendruber’s unique background and empathetic personality helped him develop a “gracious form of leadership that will leave a lasting mark on EMU,” said Shirley Showalter, president emeritus of Goshen (Ind.) College. “Loren’s pastoral heart and keen mind have blessed thousands, and those blessings will yield dividends in the years ahead.”
A native of Kalona, Iowa, Swartzendruber holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Eastern Mennonite College, a master of divinity degree from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a doctor of ministry degree at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary.
After graduating from EMU, he was associate director of admissions and part-time associate campus pastor. Ordained in 1975, he served as lead pastor of Salford (Pa.) Mennonite Church from 1978 to 1983. He was associate executive secretary of Mennonite Board of Education from 1983 to 1993 and then served 10 years as president of Hesston College.