Exactly four months after Davenport’s St. Ambrose University welcomed its new president (and second female president), Rock Island’s Augustana College will announce and introduce its next president on Tuesday, Dec. 7, in a campus ceremony at the new Lindberg Center.
The 11 a.m. event will be livestreamed on the college’s Facebook page. Steven Bahls will retire as president of Augustana College effective July 1, 2022, after a notable 19-year career leading the private Rock Island school. Originally planning to depart in July 2021, Bahls delayed his retirement last January in order to lead the college through the challenging years of the pandemic.
Amy C. Novak, EdD, became the 14th president of St. Ambrose University on Aug. 7 and was formally installed on Oct. 1. She assumed leadership of the 138-year-old Catholic Diocesan University at the conclusion of the final day of the 14-year term of Sister Joan Lescinski ’21 (Hon.), CSJ, PhD.
A native of South Dakota, before Ambrose, Novak had served as president at Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU), Mitchell, S.D., for eight years, during which the university experienced record enrollment, fundraising, and retention.
The eighth president of Augustana, Bahls started his tenure here in the summer of 2003. Previously, he was dean at Capital University Law School (Columbus, Ohio), the only law school in the nation affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and served as associate dean and professor at the University of Montana School of Law.
Since 2003, the Augustana community has benefited from his passion for the liberal arts, his natural gifts as an explorer and collaborator, and his drive for innovation, according to the college.
“Steve’s leadership has driven Augustana to new heights, and he’s done that with a steadfast commitment to growth, to innovative programming, to diversity and to the long-term financial strength of the college,” John Murabito, an alumnus and chair of Augustana’s board of trustees, said in January 2021.
“At the end of the day, Steve is all about the students and their experience at Augustana, preparing them to be outstanding global citizens and contributors to society,” he added. “Steve’s impact is far reaching, starting with the 2,400 students on campus right now. And then add all of those who have graduated since he’s been at Augie, and one gets an idea of the impact Steve has had on the countless students whom have benefited from his accomplishments.”
Bahls’s eye for growth and creativity can be seen throughout the physical campus, with upgrades totaling over $114 million, including:
- Swanson Commons, new construction, residence hall in 2006
- Parkander Residence Center, new construction, student apartments in 2008
- Evald-Carlsson Hall, transformation, academic building in 2008
- Thorson-Lucken Field, new athletic facility to accommodate new varsity sports in 2011
- Old Main, update and remodel in 2013
- Gerber Center for Student Life, transformation and addition to library in 2013
- Austin E. Knowlton Outdoor Athletic Complex, new and improved facilities in 2013
- Brunner Theatre Center, transformed space for the benefit of the fine arts in 2016
- Westerlin Residence Center, renovation completed in 2017
- Hanson Hall of Science, expansion in 2019
- Brodahl Building, expansion in 2020
- Peter J. Lindberg M.D., Center for Health and Human Performance, opened this year
The new 52,000-square-foot Peter J. Lindberg, M.D., Center for Health and Human Performance at Augustana not only stands at Rock Island’s intersection of 7th Avenue and 35th Street, but at a key intersection of academics and athletics.
The gleaming $18-million building was celebrated and opened on Aug. 30, 2021, the first day of classes for the 2021-22 school year.
The Lindberg Center’s primary objective will be to prepare graduates for health-related careers requiring a major in kinesiology or public health. Kinesiology, derived from the Greek word for movement, “kinesis,” is the study of the mechanics of bodily movements. The new center houses a complementary aquatic center and natatorium, replacing the pool in the adjacent Carver P.E. Center, and bringing with it new teams in men’s and women’s water polo.
Last New Year’s Eve, the college also celebrated completing its ambitious “AUGUSTANA NOW” campaign, for which Augie raised a total of $133,662,743.
“Steve Bahls has cemented himself in the history of the college as the leader to raise the most money to benefit Augustana students,” said Kent Barnds, executive vice president for external relations and the leader for philanthropy at Augustana.
Included on the list of many programs, initiatives and innovations, the campaign funds are being used for are:
- 167 newly funded scholarships
- Back-to-back national awards for commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
- $53.5 million investments in campus construction in last 6 years
- New majors in data analytics and kinesiology to match high-demand careers
- New master’s degree program in speech language pathology
Bahls has been a dedicated Quad Citizen as well, serving as board chair of the Genesis Health Systems and the Quad Cities Chamber Foundation. He previously chaired the boards of the Quad Cities Cultural Trust, Putnam Museum, the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce and the Illowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America and also serves on the board of the Quad City Symphony. He was one of the three original tri-chairs of Q2030, the Quad Cities’ regional action plan.
His reach expanded beyond the Quad Cities, chairing the boards of the Federation of Illinois Independent Colleges and Universities, the CCIW Council of Presidents, the Lutheran Education Conference of North America, and the ELCA Council of Colleges and University Presidents.
Augustana has a history of all male presidents, starting with the Rev. Lars Paul Esbjörn, who, having previously served as chair of Scandinavian language and literature at the young Illinois State University in Springfield, opened the Augustana Seminary in a small building in Chicago on Sept. 1, 1860. The college moved to Rock Island in 1875.
Its other presidents, before Bahls, were:
- Tuve Nils Hasselquist (1863-1891)
- Olof Olsson (1891-1900)
- Gustav Andreen (1901-1935)
- Conrad Bergendoff (1935-1962)
- Clarence Woodrow Sorensen (1962-1975)
- Thomas Tredway (1975-2003)
For more information, visit augustana.edu.