SAU President Recognized For Outstanding Leadership


Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, president of St. Ambrose University, received the Distinguished Higher Education Leadership Award on Friday, April 16 from the American Council on Education, Iowa Women's Network (IOWAWHE).

The award was presented during the 2021 IOWAWHE Virtual Conference and recognizes Sister Joan's outstanding leadership and work on behalf of women in higher education. Following the presentation, Sister Joan presented the keynote address.

IOWAWHE is dedicated to advancing the careers of women in higher education through networking, professional development, recognition, and eliminating barriers to achievement. It established the award in 2016 to recognize higher education leaders who go beyond their job duties in helping other women and actively serve as mentors, advocates, and role models.

Sister Joan will retire in August after a 50-year career in private, Catholic higher education. She has served since 2007 as the 13th president of St. Ambrose University - the first female president in the university's 138-year history.

From 1998 to 2007, Sister Joan served as president of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. Before assuming that role she served as vice president for academic affairs and dean at Fontbonne University, St. Louis; associate dean of academic affairs at Avila University, Kansas City, Missouri; and a professor of English at the College of St. Rose, Albany, New York. In addition to her administrative duties, Sister Joan taught English at each of her career stops, including St. Ambrose.

Throughout her career, Sister Joan has mentored and encouraged women to grow as leaders and scholars.

"She has been an incredible and foundational person for my professional growth," said Ellen Bluth, PhD, '87 MBA, vice chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development, Eastern Iowa Community College District.

Bluth received an American Council on Education Fellowship for the 2008-09 academic year and requested to be mentored by Sister Joan. Bluth spent six months on the St. Ambrose University campus growing her skills in leadership, board relations and advancement, and "she's continued to help me as I've moved on in my career," Bluth said.

"One of the things I really appreciate about Sister Joan is she is very honest in pointing out potential flaws, but very constructive. I know I can go to her and she won't sugar-coat anything but will give me a very honest assessment of when I did good and when I can do better," she said.

"She is a remarkable woman in many ways. Her intensity and passion to serve have been a real inspiration to me, and I am eternally grateful for her incredible generosity of time. She has made a real difference in how I view others, how I view my job and how I view myself," Bluth added.

sister joan

Leadership Award

Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD, president of St. Ambrose University, will receive the Distinguished Higher Education Leadership Award from the American Council on Education, Iowa Women’s Network.

Sister Joan is a member of numerous professional organizations. She serves on the board of trustees for the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York; is a member of the tax committee of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and on the board of directors for a senior living complex in Latham, New York. She is a former member of the board of trustees for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Locally, Sister Joan is a member of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Putnam Museum Board of Trustees. In 2011, she was recognized with the Athena Award for leadership by Women's Connection of the Quad Cities.

Sister Joan has been a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, St. Louis, Mo., since 1965.

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