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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published July 10 2011

Craft takes over as Concordia's 11th president

MOORHEAD – William Craft takes over Monday as president of Concordia College, but he may always be a professor at heart.

Craft, a former vice president and dean for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, said there are some priorities he knows he will work on during his first year, but beyond that he plans to approach his presidency like a professor would.

“I believe in study. I believe in conversation and, when needed, debate as a prelude to major decision-making,” Craft said. “There are some things I don’t know yet that need to be worked out communally.”

Craft will be Concordia’s 11th president, succeeding interim President Paul Dovre, who was appointed after the death of Pamela Jolicoeur.

Craft, an English professor who specializes in early modern renaissance literature, continued to teach an honors course and a Shakespeare class while he was an administrator at Luther.

Craft knows the demands of being president won’t allow him to teach as much. But he hopes to at least be a guest lecturer on occasion.

“There is no professional pleasure any greater than the liberty of the college classroom and what happens there and the freedom of that space and the transformation of students’ minds and, for that matter, faculty minds in that space,” Craft said. “It’s just magical.”

Craft and his wife, Anne, moved to Moorhead late last week.

Anne Craft also worked for Luther College, first as director of a federal TRIO program that serves at-risk students and later as director of a tutoring program. She hasn’t decided what she will pursue in Moorhead.

“We certainly hope there will be opportunities for her to connect with students,” Craft said.

Dovre said Craft has been working with him on the transition since his appointment in March. Craft spent about 10 days at Concordia in June meeting with Dovre, members of the board of regents and other key leaders.

“I think it’s going to be really seamless,” Dovre said of the transition.

Randall Boushek, chairman of the search committee that unanimously selected Craft, said Craft is already off to a good start and members are “absolutely convinced” they made the right choice.

“He’s reiterated to us several times that this is the job he really wants, not just being a college president, but being president of Concordia,” Boushek said.

Some of Craft’s initial tasks will be to review the status of Concordia’s strategic plan, continue fundraising and overseeing progress of the new Offutt School of Business, conclude fundraising for athletic facilities and do initial planning for renovating science facilities, he said.

Craft said he is grateful to be taking over a college that is strong academically and financially sound.

“Concordia is a strong college,” he said. “There isn’t much that needs fixing.”

Craft does see some areas that Concordia could enhance.

For example, he wants Concordia to market its strengths more boldly.

He also thinks Concordia can build on its global curriculum by doing more to recruit international students and faculty to campus and finding ways to involve new Americans on campus.

“Globalized begins at home, in my judgment,” he said.

Concordia is also in a position to become a leader in environmental sustainability among private colleges, Craft said.

“Students there are really buzzing with great ideas about that,” he said.

A challenge for all liberal arts colleges right now is to communicate the vitality of a liberal education during an economic period when narrow job training may seem like a better option, Craft said.

But he doesn’t think there’s been a better time for a liberal arts education, which teaches students to think their way through problems.

“We need people who are analytical. We need people who are creative. We need people who are rhetorically gifted. We need college graduates who are flexible, who can move with their own aspirations and with the economy,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590