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President Brian J. Bruess ’90 speaks at Commencement 2021.

New Presidential Roles Beckon SNC Leaders

St. Norbert continues its legacy of nurturing leaders in Catholic higher education as it prepares to bid farewell to two friends and welcome back a third.

President Brian Bruess ’90 has been invited to serve as inaugural joint president of the communities of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, while Provost Jenn Bonds-Raacke departs to take up the presidency at Saint Martin’s University. President Emeritus Tom Kunkel is to return to St. Norbert as interim leader as the college prepares to seek its ninth president.

“This news is especially difficult to share because Carol and I have a deep and unbridled love for St. Norbert College, our alma mater,” wrote Bruess to faculty, staff and students earlier this month. “We cherish the mission and admire each of you, the people who create this beautiful community. Our time at SNC – both our undergraduate years back in the ’80s and what will be five years in the presidency this summer – has shaped and deeply inspired us. We know firsthand the transformative power of St. Norbert College: the holistic development of students in the context of the Norbertine, Catholic, and liberal arts mission traditions. We also know the importance and sacredness of understanding and pursuing the common good, and honoring the dignity of every person. We know these things to be true because we have experienced them here, journeying with each of you.

“We will miss you all. You have made us better people.”

Bruess and his wife, Carol (Sessler) Bruess ’90, will join the communities of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Minnesota on July 1. Bruess will serve these two storied Benedictine institutions as their first joint president. The women’s college and the university for men have a long history of collaborating and now forge a bold new path, Bruess says, as two colleges moving forward together. The two institutions will be governed by combined boards, a single leadership team, and one president.

A career in Catholic education
Bruess became the eighth president of St. Norbert College in 2017. Building on a tradition of excellence at his alma mater, he has guided St. Norbert to record new-student enrollment, including increased diversity; envisioned and implemented a campus-wide renewed focus on student success and retention; launched innovative strategic planning; inspired new academic offerings including programs in integrative studies, data analytics and actuarial science, and new partnerships offering pathways for post-baccalaureate programs in health care; introduced educational-centric financial management; created systemic change on equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging; increased focus on outcomes, evidence-based decision-making and assessment; developed a new fundraising campaign focused on student learning and aimed at doubling the college’s endowment; and led the college through a global pandemic.

Prior to assuming the role of president, Bruess served at St. Catherine’s University. His wife, Carol, is professor emerita of communication and journalism at the University of St. Thomas.

A provost becomes a president
Jenn Bonds-RaackeJenn Bonds-Raacke, vice president for academic affairs and provost at St. Norbert, has been appointed the next president of Saint Martin’s University in Washington. Bonds-Raacke, who leaves SNC this May, will be the eleventh president of the Benedictine school, and the first woman to hold the office. Bonds-Raacke came to St. Norbert in 2019 from Fort Hays State University where she served as dean of the graduate school and office of scholarship and sponsored projects.

New leadership to come at SNC
The St. Norbert College Board of Trustees is developing plans for a national search for the college’s ninth president. Meanwhile, they have invited President Emeritus Tom Kunkel to serve as interim president. Kunkel served SNC for nine years, retiring in 2017 to write the award-winning new biography of Norbert of Xanten, "Man on Fire" (2019).

SNC: birthplace of presidents
As Bruess and Bonds-Raacke look back on the ways they and St. Norbert College have grown together, Kevin Quinn (Economics, Emeritus) rounds out his term as president of Aquinas College. Quinn took the helm at the Dominican foundation in 2017 after 23 years on the faculty at St. Norbert, including his tenure as founding dean of the Schneider School for Business & Economics on campus.

And St. Norbert has given Catholic higher education a fourth college president in Andrew Manion ’87, now at Edgewood College, another Dominican foundation. Prior to his appointment as president of Edgewood, Manion presided over Marian University of Wisconsin, which is sponsored by the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.

March 25, 2022