University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County Dean Tom Pleger announced Tuesday that he has been selected to serve as the next president of Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., pending action by that university’s board of trustees later this week.
Pleger first announced his candidacy to the community in November. He will begin July 1, stepping in for current president Tony McLain, who announced his retirement plans in 2012.
LSSU Board of Trustees Chair Patrick Egan led the university’s search committee, which was assisted by an executive recruitment firm.
“We are very pleased to be bringing Dr. Pleger on board,” Egan said in a statement released Tuesday. “We think he is a great fit for LSSU. He is a proven manager and administrator, and an excellent academician who knows the challenges we face. This is an exciting time in LSSU’s history.”
Pleger has served as UW-Baraboo’s dean and campus executive officer since 2006. He has said that he plans to work closely with UW and campus officials to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
“This decision is one that I made in partnership with my wife Teresa and after much consideration and consultation with our family, friends, and colleagues,” Pleger said in a statement. “I am truly honored by this opportunity, and I believe it is a direct reflection of the great work we have all done together on behalf of higher education and the students we serve.”
He said he values the work and relationships that have been part of his time in Baraboo.
“Teresa and I are extremely grateful for the friendships we have built over the years, and we look forward to our new opportunity with the knowledge that the future is bright for the University of Wisconsin System and for UW-Baraboo/Sauk County,” Pleger said.
Lake Superior State University, a four-year campus, has about 3,000 students and employs 115 full-time faculty members, offering undergraduate degrees in 45 areas of study and a graduate degree in education and curriculum instruction.
Pleger said that during the interview process, he felt at home on the small campus and was impressed with the university’s academic and athletic programs and the people he met.
“I think it’s a place that has a story that will be very easy to promote and tell and expand the reach of Lake State beyond its immediate locality,” he said.
Pleger, an archaeologist, said the campus has strong geological sciences and archaeology offerings. The area is an important historical and archaeological region, he said, adding that he would be open to teaching a course in Great Lakes archaeology if time permits.
“It’s hard to believe it was eight years ago that we came here,” Pleger said in an interview Tuesday.
He said that in his time at UW-Baraboo, student enrollment has risen, the campus faculty has grown, and many new community partnerships have been fostered.
“From what I hear in the community, people feel that (the university) is headed in the right direction,” Pleger said, citing collaboration with local schools, businesses and government.
The university also has added a number of collaborative degrees and implemented the successful Wisconsin in Scotland study abroad program.
There have been a number of significant facility improvements, too, Pleger said, citing a renovated lecture hall, new tennis courts, expanded parking and other projects. He said campus leaders are excited about plans for a new science building and a residence hall.
“I think this is one of the best, if not the best team that I’ve worked with,” Pleger said.
He said that in the coming months, he wants to make certain that plans for two important building projects continue to move forward. He also anticipates being part of the discussion about an interim or long-term replacement for his position.
Pleger said the university’s accomplishments during his time as dean have come from a team effort, and other campus leaders are well prepared to carry on the ongoing projects.
UW-Baraboo Assistant Campus Dean for Administration and Finance David Armstrong said Tuesday’s announcement was bittersweet.
“Obviously I’m happy for Tom,” he said, adding that the appointment is a testament to the work Pleger has done in Baraboo. “I’m happy for him and certainly will wish him all of the best in the future.”
Armstrong said he will work closely with Pleger over the next few months to help prepare other campus leaders to tackle the housing and science facility projects and ongoing budget concerns.
“We continue to manage as a campus ... the dire and kind of murky budget picture that we’ve been given for this current budget biennium and the future as well,” Armstrong said, adding that the leadership team is committed to addressing the issues.
“I enjoy working here because of the tone that has been set by Tom and others,” Armstrong said.
He said he hopes the next dean will value community engagement and communication, foster positive relationships and have a leadership style similar to Pleger’s to build on an already strong foundation.