Marketing & Communications  


January 11, 2006 - Grand Rapids, Mich. (Jan. 11, 2006) - Aquinas College President Harry J. Knopke Ph.D., (NOP-key) has announced his plan to retire from the College, effective June 30, 2006. Knopke, who turns 60 in May, informed the College Board of Trustees of his decision at a meeting last month.

"I accomplished most of the goals I set for myself and the College since I arrived more than eight years ago," Knopke stated. "At the same time, I am pleased to have been able to turn opportunities not imagined into assets to help it achieve the solid and respected position it has today, both in our West Michigan community and in the broader higher education community. The future is bright for the College and I'm personally and professionally gratified to have been intimately involved in charting its direction.

"In recent months, my wife Sheila and I have been presented with prospects for new challenges, a circumstance that prompted our consideration about the next stage of our lives. We are now in the midst of confirming the option that makes the most sense for us in all respects."

Knopke explained to the Board in December that his decision to announce his retirement from the presidency, at this time, will allow the College a full six months in which to search for his successor, thus providing "a seamless transition to a new administration."

Dr. Knopke joined Aquinas College as its fifth president in 1997, coming to Grand Rapids from the University of Alabama where he was vice president for student affairs and professor of Behavioral and Community Medicine.

Knopke has led Aquinas through changes in infrastructure, new programs and organizational enhancements. Among his accomplishments are:

- Re-establishing the College's theatre major and bringing together Community Circle Theatre and the Catholic Secondary Schools in a nationally unique collaboration that resulted in the 2003 opening of the College's new state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center;

- Developing a collaboration with the University of Detroit-Mercy (UDM) and Saint Mary's Health Care to create a community-oriented nursing education program;

- Introducing the Reggio Emilia-inspired approach to child education in Grand Rapids through the Child Discovery Center, a K-5 school chartered through the Grand Rapids Public School System;

- Developing semester-long culture/language immersion programs in six countries and two student exchange programs in Japan;

- Establishing the country's first undergraduate degree in Sustainable Business, which complements a range of "green" initiatives on the campus, including the photovoltaic roof on the Jarecki Center, the first on an academic building in Michigan; and

- Guiding development plans and securing funding for the Grace Hauenstein Library, a state-of-the-art, freestanding facility scheduled to open in August 2006.

"President Knopke has helped Aquinas lay a strong foundation for the College's future," said Patrick Miles, Aquinas alumnus and local attorney who co-chairs the Aquinas Board of Trustees. "It is with reluctance that the Board has accepted Harry’s plan to retire."

Last year, the Board realigned its functions and mission to complement the Institution’s plans to strengthen fund development, operations and build enrollment.

"Change is inevitable and it rarely comes easily. However, with the recent realignment and President Knopke's decision to retire at this time," Miles noted, "the Board recognized an opportunity to effect a smooth transition into a new phase of Aquinas history."

Miles cited Dr. Knopke's role in leading collaborative efforts on the Performing Arts Center, the innovative nursing education program and the Grace Hauenstein Library as, perhaps, some of his finest accomplishments.

In the coming months, President Knopke will continue his work with the board and Institutional Advancement staff in fund development. Dr. Ed Balog, the Aquinas College provost who serves as the chief operating officer, will likewise continue to focus his efforts on College operations and its enrollment initiatives as the Institution continues to build on what has been one of its strongest years ever.

President Knopke's decision to retire has generated expressions of thanks for the guidance he has provided to the College.

"I am very grateful for the years of leadership which President Knopke has provided for Aquinas College,” stated Fr. William Duncan, an Aquinas Trustee and Vicar General of the Diocese of Grand Rapids. “Over these past years, he has devoted his considerable skills to strengthen the core values that distinguish Aquinas as a fine Catholic college. As a trustee and friend, I wish Harry and Sheila God's blessings in their future plans."

Sr. Aquinas Weber, O.P., Chancellor Emerita, praised President Knopke for his leadership over the past eight years.

"His vision, creativity, energy and integrity have raised the stature of Aquinas to a new level of recognition, both nationally and locally," she said. "Aquinas is poised for a great future due to the recognition it has gained through his leadership. The College is acknowledged for its excellence in academic circles and beyond. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him. I wish him well as he pursues new career opportunities," she concluded.

The Executive Committee of the Board is expected to outline a search process for a new president in the coming weeks.