Sister Joan Lescinski CSJ, PhD, To Retire As President of St. Ambrose University in August 2021


Sister Joan Lescinski CSJ, PhD, announced she will retire as President of St. Ambrose University, effective August of 2021.

A national search for the 14th president in the university's 138-year history will begin within the week.Trustee alumni John Anderson '87 and Renee Citera '81 have been appointed to co-chair a Presidential Search Committee by the Most Rev. Thomas Zinkula, Bishop of the Diocese of Davenport and Chair of the St. Ambrose Board of Trustees.

Anderson, CEO of Quad City Bank and Trust, joined Sister Joan and Bishop Zinkula for a Tuesday morning news conference in the Gottlieb Conference Room at the Rogalski Center. Citera, founder of RGC Consulting in Chicago, participated remotely.

The Presidential Search Committee will consist of six additional members of the Board of Trustees and seven representatives from among the University's faculty, staff, students and alumni.

WittKieffer, a global executive search firm, has been selected to assist in the search, which is expected to conclude by February 2021. WittKieffer also assisted in the selection of Sister Joan to succeed Edward Rogalski, PhD, as St. Ambrose president in 2007.

Upon retirement Sister Joan will conclude nearly a half-century of service to Catholic higher education, including 14 years as president of St. Ambrose.

Under her leadership, St. Ambrose has experienced significant growth in its curriculum and major expansion of its academic, residential and athletics facilities.

Since 2007, St. Ambrose has added a Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, which debuted as the third such program in Iowa in 2014, and a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Healthcare Sales degree program, which debuted in 2016 as the state's first business degree program focused solely on sales.

Other graduate program additions include the Master of Speech-Language Pathology, the Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, and the Master of Public Health. The university also added a third doctoral program when the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program was accredited in 2016, completing its conversion from a master's program. Pace-setting undergraduate programs such as Sales, Biomedical Laboratory Science and Cybersecurity are among several new bachelor degree offerings added under Sister Joan's leadership.

Also, since 2007, St. Ambrose has added 11 varsity athletics programs, and enhanced facilities for athletes and fitness-minded students. At a total cost of $21.5 million, the 80,000-square-feet Wellness and Recreation Center was the largest capital project in university history and opened in August 2017. The university also partnered with Assumption High School in 2016 to introduce the St. Vincent's Athletics Complex, a multi-phase project that includes a softball complex, a football locker and office facility, and multi-use fields for soccer, football, and lacrosse. A second phase of the project is nearing completion, with a competition football field and an outdoor track and field facility.

Other important facilities expansion under Sister Joan's leadership include the Center for Health Sciences Education at Genesis, the Admissions and Welcome Center, the Center for Communication and Social Development, and two new residence halls, North and McCarthy Halls, the latter of which also includes modern classrooms. During Sister Joan's tenure, the university also renovated the exterior of its first and most iconic building, Ambrose Hall, and alleviated historic flooding in the Cosgrove Hall parking lot with a $1 million water retention system.

Finally, just this month, the university completed an $8.6 million renovation and expansion of McMullen Hall to create a fully digital, state-of-the-art home for the College of Business.

Also, since 2007, the university has grown its endowment from $40 million to $170 million, and increased its total net assets by $160 million.

"It has been an incredible privilege for me to serve as the 13th president of St. Ambrose University," Sister Joan said. "In conjunction with the Board, faculty, staff, our alumni and generous donors, we have been able to enhance the buildings and infrastructure that support our students' academic and extracurricular experiences."

sister joan

Sister Joan Announces Retirement

Upon retirement Sister Joan will conclude nearly a half-century of service to Catholic higher education, including 14 years as president of St. Ambrose.

Sister Joan came to St. Ambrose after serving as president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Indiana from 1998 through 2007, and previously served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of Fontbonne University in St. Louis, associate dean of academic affairs at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, and as a professor of English at the College of St. Rose in her native Albany, N.Y., where she earned her master's and bachelor's degrees in English literature in 1974 and 1970, respectively. She earned a doctoral degree in English literature from Brown University in 1981.

She has been a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet since 1965.

After her successor is inaugurated, Sister Joan will remain in Davenport for a year to assist the transition.

She and Bishop Zinkula both thanked co-chairs Anderson and Citera for taking the lead in finding the next St. Ambrose president, a particular challenge in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

Anderson noted the succession process began in January, before the breadth of COVID-19 pandemic was known, when Sister Joan first shared her retirement plans with the Board of Trustees. In the intervening months, Anderson and Citera have worked with the Board in choosing WittKieffer over several other national executive search firms.

"We look forward to working with Sister Joan during this last year of her service," Anderson said. "She has pledged to assist the Board of Trustees in any way we need, and she will be a central figure in assisting the president-elect in the transition process."

An initial step in the search process will be gaining the perspective of university constituencies. "We have asked Sister Joan to work with faculty, staff, student leaders and alumni to bring recommendations to the Board for appointment to the search committee as soon as possible," Citera said.

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