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Aquinas College Selects Juan Olivarez as New President

May 24, 2011 - GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. – Aquinas College announces today that Juan Olivarez, Ph.D., has accepted the position as president of Aquinas College. The news was formally announced today at a press conference at Holmdene Manor on the college’s campus. Dr. Olivarez, 61, becomes the school’s seventh president in 125 years, succeeding C. Edward Balog, Ph.D, who in January announced he will retire on June 30 of this year after serving five years as president at the private, Catholic college.

“Aquinas College is excited to have Dr. Olivarez return to our campus and lead us into our 125 year tradition of providing students of all backgrounds with the opportunity to develop in body, mind, and spirit,” says Aquinas College Board of Trustees Chairman Monsignor William Duncan. “We are confident that Dr. Olivarez will continue to build upon the initiatives begun by Dr. Balog to take our college to the next level of service to our students and our community.”

Immediately after January’s retirement announcement by Balog, the board commissioned a Presidential Search Committee that was comprised of representatives from the trustees, alumni, student senate, faculty and staff. Dr. Olivarez was unanimously recommended to the Board of Trustees, which met on May 23 to entertain the recommendation and voted Dr. Olivarez, a 1971 graduate of Aquinas, as its seventh president.

“The Presidential Search Committee was charged with seeking to identify a candidate who reflects the values of our institution and possesses the qualities of leadership required to fulfill our college’s mission,” says Aquinas College trustee and search committee chairman Donald Burns. “We found all that in Dr. Olivarez and feel very comfortable saying he is uniquely capable of guiding Aquinas into the future.”

“I am thrilled to come back home to lead Aquinas College into the next phase,” says Dr. Olivarez, who for the past three years had served as president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. “I graduated from here, I met my wife here and we've stayed connected over the years, so I have a strong affinity for Aquinas. As I've said before, Aquinas changed my life.”

Prior to the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Dr. Olivarez served for nine years as the president of Grand Rapids Community College. Although content with his role at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Dr. Olivarez was pulled by the opportunity to re-engage with his alma mater and higher education, a profession in which he has spent the majority of his career. Olivarez continues to maintain various civic and community leadership positions on both local and national levels. Olivarez’s community involvement credentials were an important consideration as the college evaluated his candidacy.

“Our selection process was based on a detailed candidate profile that had been developed by input from the board of trustees, alumni, faculty, staff, students and community leaders,” Burns notes. “Dr. Olivarez met and exceeded every requirement, namely his commitment to our Catholic Dominican heritage and proven track record of higher education financial stewardship and fundraising abilities.”

“Thanks to the outstanding leadership of Dr. Balog, Aquinas College enters its 125th year stronger than ever,” adds Monsignor Duncan. “We have complete confidence that Dr. Olivarez can guide us forward by providing strong educational leadership and community engagement."

After serving first as Provost and then an interim president, Dr. C. Edward Balog became president of Aquinas in 2007 and in January 2011 announced his intention to retire upon completion of the College’s fiscal year, June 30, 2011.

Like most tuition-driven institutions, Aquinas sees a number of opportunities for future growth and improvement. Each of the college’s last five fiscal years has resulted in a surplus, although considerable fiscal discipline has been required to meet that goal in the recent economic climate. The college has enrolled record freshman classes each of those years, and has improved its retention rate. The college continues to pursue a long-term, integrated institutional plan to increase enrollment and generate new resources through private giving.

As the region’s only Catholic college, along with its rich tradition of quality academic programs and education of the whole person, Aquinas is a regional jewel. A major focus for the new president will be to represent the college in a manner that will enhance its presence in and service to the region.

Founded by the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids in 1886, Aquinas has a Catholic heritage in the Dominican traditions of study, prayer, service and community.

The College is named for St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century Dominican scholar and teacher considered to be one of the most brilliant minds of his time and one of the most influential thinkers in the history of the Catholic Church. St. Thomas stressed the importance of having an open mind and open heart and continuously learning from our life experiences. Throughout the years, the Aquinas community has continued to foster a learning environment centered on these principles.