Drew is still in the woods. But its president is out of The Forest

Drew President MaryAnn Baenninger introduces Gen. John Kelly, Feb. 12, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Drew University is still in the woods. But its president is out of The Forest.

MaryAnn Baenninger will be leaving in July 2020, as trustees attempt to carve a new path from the pandemic wilderness for the Madison school.

“As we look to the future for Drew University, our responsibility is to best position the University for that future and the many issues we will need to address,” board Chairman William W. Landis III said this week in a letter to faculty, students and alumni.

“After discussions with President Baenninger, together we have come to the decision that our future direction requires a change of leadership for the long term.”

Baenninger’s contract expires next month, but she agreed to stay another month to help with the transition, according to the university.

‘Children of the Forest’ : Drew President MaryAnn Baenninger, who is leaving the university, welcomes grads to their virtual commencement, May 9, 2020:

Her announced departure follows that of Provost Debra Liebowitz, who is leaving after two decades to assume a similar position at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

Jessica Lakin, associate provost for academic administration, will take over as Drew’s provost, and Ryan Hinrichs, associate dean of the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies Drew’s College of Liberal Arts, will become dean of the college and the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies, said Landis, a 1985 Drew graduate.

An interim president will be named in July by a search committee led by Angela Gerken, Landis said, promising more changes.

When she arrived at Drew in 2014 after 10 years as president of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota, Baenninger found the Methodist school struggling financially, with enrollment declining.

Drew slashed tuition by 20 percent in 2017.  Tuition, room and board for the academic year that just ended cost about $55,000, according to the university, which has more than 2,000 students and 148 faculty members, according to its website.

Landis praised Baenninger as a “vocal champion for liberal arts education and professional and theological studies,” crediting her with boosting enrollment, adding 14 academic programs, and guiding Drew through the coronavirus crisis that closed the campus in March.

One year earlier, Baenninger’s husband of 33 years, retired Temple University Professor Ron Baenninger, passed away. He was 81.

Sitting on 186 wooded acres nicknamed The Forest, Drew consists of the College of Liberal Arts, the Drew Theological School and the Caspersen graduate school.

The campus also is home to the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, the United Methodist Archives and History Center, centers for Religion, Culture & Conflict and Holocaust/Genocide Study, and an extensive collection of materials from writer Willa Cather.

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