The Board of Trustees has announced the election of Gustavus’ 17th president, Rebecca M. Bergman. Bergman will take office on July 1 of this year, replacing current President Jack Ohle in his retirement. Bergman is also the first female president in Gustavus’ 152 years.
Bergman currently serves at Medtronic as the Vice President of Research, Technology, and Therapy Delivery Systems for the company’s Cardiac Rhythm Disease Management (CRDM) division. Bergman has also served on the Board of Trustees since 2007.
Board of Trustees Member and Presidential Search Committee Chair Warren Beck believes that Bergman’s skill set is well tailored to the position.
“I am very excited that Becky has been elected. I think she brings a great deal of strengths from her years of experience at Medtronic and also benefits from her service on the board of trustees at the college,” Beck said.
Although Bergman did not initially intend to apply for the position, she was encouraged to do so by her colleagues.
“At the beginning, I really didn’t have it in my mind, the possibility of being a candidate, and it wasn’t until I was nudged by a few of my colleagues that I even began to think about it, so it really wasn’t in my ‘master plan,’” Bergman said.
The election of a new president has caused excitement on campus and has also provoked questions about what the responsibilities of the president are. Beck explained that a college president has many diverse roles.
“The president of the college is really the person who provides a focal point for conversation about the college, and in going forward, provides leadership for the institution. They are also the person who articulates the mission of the college and its strengths to the broader community. It’s the combination of the internal leadership and the external communication that is so important to keep the college moving forward,” Beck said.
Bergman is enthusiastic about transitioning from her current role as Board of Trustees member to President.
“I am particularly looking forward to life on campus. I have a real affinity for students, for education, for continual learning, so it feels like an environment that will be exciting and every day something new to learn. I really enjoy strategic planning, and trying to figure out where to focus energy in terms of future direction, so I am looking forward to trying to set priorities and figure out what are the most important new initiatives that Gustavus needs to face into over the next five plus years,” Bergman said.
Although Bergman does not see any major changes in the near future, she hopes to improve upon many existing aspects of Gustavus life.
“Gustavus is fortunate to have a lot of things right, and I think that the important foundation of Gustavus, meaning the mission and core values of the institution and the leadership that we have in the cabinet and the faculty. So I think we build on that, but I am not anticipating major shifts in direction, at least in the short term,” Bergman said.
Student Senate Co-President Matt Timmons expressed his perception of an optimistic reaction felt on campus.
“The reactions I have heard have been positive. I know that there were some concerns regarding the fact that she does not formally have a PhD. However, I think if any person looks at her resume for more than two seconds or has a conversation with her for any period of time greater than two seconds as well, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that she is profoundly intelligent,” Timmons said
Beck shares Timmons’ confidence in Bergman’s ability to not only keep Gustavus running, but to improve it.
“She is very mission-driven. She understands the importance of mission, which is true of Medtronic and certainly true of Gustavus, so I think that she will work to expand and refine the mission of Gustavus as we face the challenges that all liberal arts colleges face,” Beck said.
Timmons also shares his perspective about what students hope to see within the transition process.
“Honesty and transparency is all for which the student body ever asks. We are a close-knit group of highly thoughtful, critical, and invested individuals. We want to know what is going on and why. As those two ideals have been paramount in the process thus far, I expect nothing less in the weeks ahead,” Timmons said.
Bergman sees success in her term as president, as well as in the future of Gustavus.
“I always hope that my legacy would start with a statement that I really made a difference to the people and the institution, so that we, together, have created a sustainable organization, a vibrant and vital organization, for students and for faculty and staff that is making a difference for the people in the community and in the world,” Bergman said.