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BW President Robert C. Helmer to retire

The BW Board of Trustees has announced a plan for a leadership transition at the Berea campus.

BW President Robert C. Helmer

Dr. Robert C. Helmer, the ninth president of Baldwin Wallace University, has announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2024. Helmer shared his decision with the university community earlier today.

"It has been my privilege to lead an institution with such a long and storied history — one that for nearly 180 years has been meeting student needs and preparing individuals to succeed both personally and professionally as proud Baldwin Wallace graduates," Dr. Helmer said. "I have been blessed throughout my tenure here to have worked with an amazing faculty, a dedicated staff, challenging and inspiring students and a board with vision and determination. Together, we have accomplished a great deal and are taking the sometimes-daunting steps to address the new financial landscape higher education across America faces today. I feel confident I am leaving Baldwin Wallace prepared to continue its mission serving those who seek an education based on the values of the arts and sciences and the needs of the 21st century." 

"We want to thank Bob for his many contributions to Baldwin Wallace during his 12-year tenure," said Lee Thomas, chair of the Baldwin Wallace University Board of Trustees. "That includes transforming our STEM capabilities, developing our latest strategic plan and expanding our campus to include the new Austin E. Knowlton Center for Sciences and our new health sciences building. Under Bob's leadership, the university was successful with its $135 million Campaign for the Extraordinary and also secured the largest financial gift in the university's history. At every turn, he has looked for ways to improve the student experience at BW, including expanding health and wellness services, adding new residence space and creating a new bookstore. He is an avid supporter of our athletes, as well as our artists and performers. Beyond our classrooms, he has helped us build a campus that embodies the best of a residential university, with spaces for students to gather, activities to promote a sense of community, opportunities for service and engagement — all within an environment that encourages diversity and diversity of thought."

Thomas said the board has established an Office of the President to oversee the university's operations while the search for Dr. Helmer's successor begins. That office will be led by Dr. Thomas Sutton, who has been named Acting President and Provost. A longtime, respected political science professor, Dr. Sutton previously served as interim provost for the university and has held a range of leadership roles at BW, including interim dean of the schools of humanities and social sciences, president of the BW faculty senate, chair of the political science department and the Burton D. Morgan Chair in entrepreneurial studies.  A former Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Sutton earned his BA in political and social thought at the University of Virginia and, after 13 years of nonprofit work, went on to pursue his Ph.D. in political science/public policy at Kent State University.

Dr. Sutton will be joined in the Office of the President by Greg Cingle, chief financial officer; Greg Flanik, vice president for operations; and Ellen Zegarra, vice president of philanthropy. The group will report to a special three-member Board Advisory Committee, charged with making sure the university continues to focus on keeping Baldwin Wallace fiscally strong and structured to grow during a time when many colleges and universities — especially in Ohio — are facing significant challenges, including declines in revenues and enrollment.

Thomas added the board will be conducting a national search to find Dr. Helmer's successor and will take the time to find a leader with the skill set that will keep Baldwin Wallace on the path to success. "Running a university today is a demanding job," he said. "We intend to conduct a comprehensive, thoughtful search for the individual with the experience and expertise to run an institution as complex as any corporation, with a highly educated and engaged workforce and students building a future with the knowledge and skills we provide them. BW deserves our very best efforts finding that person."

Before joining Baldwin Wallace University, Dr. Helmer served nine years as president of Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio, where he led the creation of new academic programs, more than doubled student enrollment, established an intercollegiate athletics program and expanded the campus physical plant to include new residence halls and a student center. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and The Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, Dr. Helmer received his Ph.D. from Marquette University and his J.D. from the University of Toledo.

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