Augustana’s 24th president will be its first female president
Augustana’s 24th president is a 46-year-old former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center and a native South Dakotan.
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was introduced to a minute-long standing ovation from Augustana faculty and staff Wednesday afternoon in the Chapel of Reconciliation.
“I knew this would be an exhilarating moment, and it is,” Herseth Sandlin said in her first words to her future colleagues.
After thanking multitudes, including the search committee and its leader, Becky Blue, the Board of Trustees and all others in attendance, Herseth Sandlin lauded current President Rob Oliver and his wife, Angie, for their years of service at Augustana.
“Words are inadequate to express the admiration that [my husband] Max and I have for the two of you … We thank you for your leadership, your vision, your accomplishments and for your profound dedication to this university,” she said.
Herseth Sandlin shared anecdotes about family and convictions about faith during her speech, saying that her eight-year-old son Zachary “restores me” and that her husband Max is “her biggest advocate.”
She asked for the trust of the Augustana community and assured its members that she will work to earn it. She stressed that the the interests of students will continue to come first at Augustana.
“We guide [students], prepare them to be servant leaders in their chosen professions,” she said.
Blue said Herseth Sandlin was the right leader for Augustana because of “an enthusiasm for the liberal arts, keen communication and collaboration skills and a passion for possibility.”
“She has an evident sense of calling for the work ahead, and we know that she will lead from her foundation of faith and community that was built right here in South Dakota,” Blue said.
Herseth Sandlin was the first woman from South Dakota to be elected to the House of Representatives, serving from 2004-2011. She most recently worked for Raven Industries in Sioux Falls as general counsel and vice president of corporate development.
Her term will begin as Oliver’s ends July 31. Communications professor John Bart spoke during her introduction and labeled Oliver’s tenure a “one of the best chapters in [Augustana’s] story.”
He then read a passage from Ephesians 4 that Herseth Sandlin identified as being particularly powerful.
Augustana’s core values, Christian, liberal arts, excellence, community and service, were a focus throughout the event, with Christian being especially evident.
In addition to the scripture reading, Herseth Sandlin selected “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” as the hymn, Pastor Paul Rohde led the congregation in a litany of prayers and Herseth Sandlin ended her speech by asking God to bless Augustana.
“May the Lord bless each of us and bless this campus community as we use the gifts that he has generously given to each of us and work for a better, more loving and compassionate world,” she said.
Blue stressed confidentiality throughout the search process and did not abandon that sentiment during Herseth Sandlin’s introduction.
She asked those in attendance to put away their phones and keep things “old school” by not revealing the new president’s identity on social media.
But word is now out.
Starting Aug. 1, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will be the new leader and face of Augustana University.