Decision follows exhaustive search.

Baenninger represented “the best overall match” to the candidate profile. Photos courtesy College of St. Benedict.
Baenninger represented “the best overall match” to the candidate profile. Photos courtesy College of St. Benedict.

MaryAnn Baenninger, president of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota, has been selected as the next president of Drew, the university board of trustees announced today.

A psychology professor who has led the private liberal arts college in St. Joseph, Minn., since 2004, she was formerly executive associate director with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in Philadelphia and a tenured faculty member at The College of New Jersey. She’ll take over at Drew July 21.

“Drew’s aspirations and goals are a direct match for my experience and for the aspects of higher education that are especially dear to my heart,” she said. “It will be a privilege to be its leader.”

Baenninger has promised to maintain Drew’s tradition of academic excellence while raising its profile, embarking on capital projects and expanding the number of international students.

“She’s a brilliant scholar who represents the best overall match to our candidate profile,” said university trustee William M. Freeman ’74, who led the presidential search committee. Baenninger, who earned her BA and PhD in psychology from Temple University, will be the first full-term female president in Drew’s 147-year history.

In Minnesota, Baenninger has been credited with building out the school’s study abroad programs, attracting international students and supporting undergraduate research. She also won praise for diversifying the student body and more than doubling the school’s endowment. Inside Higher Ed gave her an “A” for easing financial pressures by slowly decreasing the size of incoming classes after Saint Benedict’s traditional base of suburban, middle-class Midwestern students began shrinking, which resulted in an increase of net tuition. The college reached out to new geographic markets and became more selective, according to the article.

The College of Saint Benedict is a private Roman Catholic (Benedictine) college for women. It shares a faculty and academic program with Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., and men and women attend classes together on both campuses. Total enrollment is 3,860.

In a 2009 article about being the male spouse of a college president, Baenninger’s husband, Ron, a retired Temple psychology professor, joked about playing second fiddle to the most powerful person on campus: “It has astonished me to discover just how busy a president’s life can be. When my wife staggers home with a bulging briefcase after her normal 12-hour day, having dinner ready for her seems like something I can do. She rarely has breakfast with me, having left the house at the crack of dawn.”

Baenninger’s selection is the culmination of a lengthy process begun last April by Drew’s presidential search committee, made up of trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and a student, said Freeman. After receiving more than 100 applications, the committee chose 15 semi-finalists in December. Then eight were selected for in-person interviews and the three finalists were invited to Drew’s campus earlier this month to tour and conduct forums with administrators, faculty, staff and students.—Mary Jo Patterson