St. John’s College (MD) President Christopher B. Nelson Named Chair of NAICU Board

February 01, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, has been appointed chair of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Nelson leads a list of four new board officers and 14 new board members who assumed their responsibilities today at the close of the 2017 NAICU Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

NAICU board members set the association’s agenda on federal higher education policy; actively encourage support of association priorities and initiatives; and oversee the organization’s financial administration. Members serve three-year terms, while officers hold their positions for one year.

“For nearly 26 years, Chris Nelson has been an articulate and outspoken advocate for a liberal arts education and for private, nonprofit colleges and universities,” said NAICU President David L. Warren, Ph.D.  “Chris’ experience and leadership, in combination with the other new board members, will be critical over the next 12 months as NAICU and our members navigate the political leadership transition in the Washington.  Over the next year, as new opportunities and challenges arise, the Association will be well positioned for success with our new leadership team.”

“For years, I have admired the fine work of this Association in representing the nation’s independent colleges and universities. I look forward to working with this strong board and with David Warren and his extraordinary team in this new role,” said Nelson.  “The times are interesting; the challenges are stimulating; and the opportunities to provide the means to support students throughout the nation are great. We need to make good use of those opportunities.”

Nelson succeeds Marjorie Hass, Ph.D., president of Austin College in Sherman, TX, who remains on the board as immediate past chair.

NAICU serves as the unified national voice of private nonprofit higher education. With more than 1,000 member institutions and associations nationwide, NAICU reflects the diversity of independent higher education in the United States. Since 1976, the association has represented private nonprofit colleges and universities on policy issues with the federal government, such as those affecting student aid, taxation, and government regulation. Our member institutions include major research universities, church-related colleges, historically black colleges, art and design colleges, traditional liberal arts and science institutions, women’s colleges, two-year colleges, and schools of law, medicine, engineering, business, and other professions.

Christopher Nelson

A national spokesperson for the liberal arts and a regular participant in the national conversation about higher education, Nelson has been president of St. John’s College (MD) since June 1991.  Nelson intends to retire from St. John’s at the end of the 2016-17 academic year.

St. John’s is devoted to the most liberal of liberal education. Its richly varied curriculum focuses on an integrated study of philosophy, literature, history, theology, political science, mathematics, music, and science. Students and faculty engage directly—not through textbooks and lectures but through study and discussion—with original texts and ideas that are at the foundations of Western thought.

Frequently a panelist and speaker on state, regional, and national programs, Nelson has addressed issues of institutional autonomy in the face of government regulatory intrusion and changes proposed in the accrediting system. His current focus is making clear the value of liberal education in providing excellent grounding for an open-minded pursuit of lifelong learning that will, in turn, support one’s career and professional development. He is a regular contributor to the opinion pages of The Washington Post and The Huffington Post.

Nelson has twice been elected to the NAICU Board of Directors, from 1996 to 1999 and from 2014 to present. Nelson was the 2014 recipient of NAICU’s Henry Paley Award, presented annually in recognition of “an individual who, throughout his or her career, has unfailingly served the students and faculty of independent higher education. The recipients of this award have set an example for all who would seek to advance educational opportunity in the United States.”

Nelson has served as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities Association. He is past chair and a founding member of the Annapolis Group, a consortium of over 120 of the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. Nelson was elected to Board of the Aspen Wye Seminars in January 2014. He also served on the board for the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) (2010-2013). He was chair of the Board of Trustees of Shimer College, and received the Honorary Doctor of Letters from Shimer College in May 2012. He was chair of the board of AFS-USA, one of the largest, not-for-profit, educational organizations, sponsoring inter-cultural exchanges world-wide.

Prior to 1991, Nelson served on numerous national, state and local Bar Association committees and published articles in the field of labor and employee benefits law. He served on boards and committees for the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry (for business and public school partnerships), St. John’s College, and St. Joseph’s College (Indiana).

Nelson practiced law in Chicago for 18 years and was chairman of his law firm when he left the practice to take his current position at St. John’s College. He is an alumnus of St. John’s (BA 1970) and a graduate of the University of Utah College of Law (JD 1973), where he founded and directed the university’s student legal services program.

Other New NAICU Board Officers

Other new officers of the NAICU Board, serving one year terms ending in February 2018:

  • Andrew K. Benton, J.D., president of Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, will serve as vice chair of the NAICU board of directors. He is in line to assume the position of chair in February 2018.
  • Dottie L. King, Ph.D., president of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods College in Saint Mary of the Woods, IN, has been named treasurer.
  • Lyle Roelofs, Ph.D., president of Berea College in Berea, KY, has been named secretary.

New NAICU Board Members 

Eight new members were elected to three-year terms on the NAICU board, representing the association’s eight national regions ending in February 2020:
  • David R. Evans, Ph.D., president of Southern Vermont College in Bennington, VT, will represent Region I (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont).
  • Roger N. Casey, Ph.D., president of McDaniel College in Westminster, MD, will represent Region II (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York).
  • Lewis E. Thayne, Ph.D., president of Lebanon Valley College, in Annville, PA will represent Region III (Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia).
  • Kenneth R. Garren, Ph.D., president of Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA, will represent Region IV (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Caroline, Virginia).
  • Scott Flanagan, Ed.D., president of Edgewood College in Madison, WI, will represent Region V (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin).
  • Rev. J. Cameron West, president of Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL, will represent Region VI (Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas).
  • Stephen Minnis, J.D., president of Benedictine College in Atchison, KS, will represent Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota).
  • Andrea Cook, Ph.D., president of Warner Pacific College in Portland, OR, will represent Region VIII (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado., Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming).
Four presidents have been named to three-year terms as at-large members of the board ending in February 2020:
  • Teresa L. Amott, Ph.D., president of Knox College, in Galesburg, IL.
  • Pamela Eibeck, Ph.D., president of the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA.
  • Robert E. Johnson, Ph.D., president of Becker College in Worcester, MA.
  • Shirley Mullen, Ph.D., president of Houghton College in Houghton, NY.

In addition, four presidents have been named chairs of the Association’s standing committees:

  • Jo Allen, Ph.D., president of Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, will chair the Committee on Accountability.
  • Leo M. Lambert, Ph.D., president of Elon University in Elon, NC, will lead the Committee on Policy Analysis and Public Relations.
  • Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D., president of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH, will lead the Committee on Student Aid.
  • Frederik Ohles, Ph.D., president of Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, NE, will chair the Committee on Tax Policy.

In addition, Gary Steinke, president of the Iowa Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Des Moines, IA, will serve a three-year term on the Board representing the National Association of Independent College and University State Executives (NAICUSE).  Kristen Soares, president of the Association of Independent California College and Universities in Sacramento, CA, is the new chair of NAICU State Executives and a NAICU board member. Pamela Lokken, vice chancellor of government and community relations at the Washington University in St. Louis, MO, will serve as an ad-hoc non-voting government relations representative for three-years ending in February 2020.



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