As Augustana College President Steve Bahls looks forward to his official retirement date of July 1, the college reflects on his nineteen year tenure.
Bahls is the eighth president of Augustana College and joined the college in 2003. He was installed as president in October of that year. Before coming to Augustana, he was dean at Capital University Law School, the only law school in the nation affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Prior to that, he served as associate dean and professor at the University of Montana School of Law. Between 1979 and 1985, he practiced corporate law with Frisch, Dudek and Slattery in Milwaukee.
President Bahls has been a frequent speaker on campus during his tenure and held open office hours, often in Brew by the Slough, the coffee house in Augustana’s Center for Student Life. Most evenings and weekends found him at Augustana’s music, cultural and athletic events.
Since coming to the Quad Cities, he has been chair of the executive board of the Illowa Council of Boy Scouts of America, the board of the Putnam Museum of Natural Science, and completed two terms as president of the board of the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce. During his term on the Chamber of Commerce, he helped lead efforts to create the unified Quad City Chamber. He is chair of the Genesis Health System board and has served on the boards of directors of the United Way of the Quad Cities, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Association, and the Quad Cities Cultural Trust. He is a tri-chair of Q2030, the regional plan for building the economic and cultural vitality of the Quad Cities as a creative, connected and prosperous community.
Major developments during Bahls’ tenure include:
• Major campus improvements such as the building of Duane R. Swanson Commons; the Dorothy Parkander Residence Center, the Murry and Cindy Gerber Center for Student Life, John and Mary Thorson-Lucken Field, the Austin E. Knowlton Outdoor Athletic Complex, and the Kim and Donna Brunner Theatre Center have taken place. Extensive renovations have also been completed to Old Main, Emmy Evald Hall and the Thomas Tredway Library.
• A grant program called Augie Choice was launched that provides all students up to $2,000 to work with faculty mentors on research projects, pursue international study or engage in an internship.
• More than half (54%) of students now have a meaningful international experience by the time of their graduation.
• About one-third of Augustana students are either U.S.-born persons of color or international students, representing the most diverse student body in the college’s history.
• New programs have been added in Africana studies, creative writing, engineering physics, ethics, graphic design, international business, journalism, music composition, neuroscience, and data analytics; faculty leaders have launched the Augustana Center for Polar Studies, the Upper Mississippi Studies Center, and the Presidential Center for Faith and Learning.
• Women’s and men’s lacrosse, men’s volleyball, and women’s bowling have all been added to the college’s NCAA Division III athletic program.
• Augustana has raised more than $152 million as part of a comprehensive campaign, which allows the college to provide additional funds for scholarships, programming and enhancing buildings.
• Enrollment has grown by almost 10% and the faculty has grown by more than 13%.
He has served on the boards of national higher education organizations, including the Council of Independent Colleges and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and he currently chairs the board of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America and the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities. He also served on the NCAA Division III Presidents’ Advisory Council and was an invited member of President Barack Obama’s White House Summit on Higher Education.
Since coming to the Quad Cities, he has been chair of the executive board of the Illowa Council of Boy Scouts of America, the board of the Putnam Museum of Natural Science, and completed two terms as president of the board of the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce, in which role he helped lead efforts to create the unified (Illinois and Iowa) Quad City Chamber. He is chair of the Genesis Health System board and has served on the boards of directors of the United Way of the Quad Cities, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Association, and the Quad Cities Cultural Trust. He is a tri-chair of Q2030, the regional plan for building the economic and cultural vitality of the Quad Cities as a creative, connected and prosperous community.
Bahls was born in Des Moines in 1954. He and his wife, Jane, were married in 1977. They have three children: Daniel, a Williams College and Boston University Law School graduate, is a lawyer in Massachusetts; Timothy, a graduate of Middlebury College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School, is a computer scientist in Wisconsin; and Angela, an Augustana alumna, is a graduate of the speech language pathology program at the University of Arizona and is now practicing in Indiana. Steve and Jane also are the proud grandparents of five grandchildren.