McKendree University’s longtime president to retire

After serving as president of McKendree University in Lebanon for 25 years, James Dennis announced Monday he will retire next year at the end of his contract.

A nationwide search will be conducted to find a successor for Dennis, the college said in a news release.

The change in leadership at McKendree follows last week’s announcement that another metro-east college, Lindenwood University-Belleville, would be overseen by John R. Porter from the Lindenwood campus in St. Charles, Mo. Lindenwood has said it will discontinue daytime classes at the Belleville campus and McKendree announced last week that it is working with Lindenwood to help students who want to transfer to McKendree.

Dennis served at the University of Southern California for 27 years before he began his duties at McKendree in 1994.

“The accomplishments achieved as a result of Jim Dennis’ leadership have been nothing short of miraculous,” Daniel Lett, chairman of the McKendree board of trustees, said in the McKendree news release. “Upon his arrival in 1994, he sought to breathe new life and vitality into this institution — and he has done so by every measure. The McKendree University community has been transformed by a more diverse faculty and student body; state-of-the-art facilities; a rich curriculum and presence in the arts; a focus on service; and graduating young men and women who are successful in every field and walk of life.”

Here highlights of what happened at McKendree under Dennis’ leadership according to the school’s news release:

The Higher Learning Commission in September called McKendree “a gem of a college.”

The Hettenhausen Center for the Arts opened in 2006.

In July 2007, McKendree College officially became “McKendree University.”

Construction has included athletic facilities, two new residence halls in 2011, and the renovation of the dining hall and historic campus buildings, including Bothwell Chapel.

In 2013, the athletic program completed its transition from the NAIA to NCAA Division II, competing in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

McKendree was founded in 1828 and the school says it was the state’s first institution of higher education.

The school’s website says it has 2,499 students, with 1,956 undergraduate students and 543 graduate students.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.