OLIVIA FOSTER, TRUMPET EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Dr. Rebecca Neiduski was announced as the 18th president of Wartburg College on March 21. Current President Darrel Colson plans to retire at the end of the academic year.
Neiduski is excited to serve Wartburg and learn more about the community.
“My husband and I are thrilled to be able to join this family,” said Neiduski.
Members of the Wartburg community are excited to welcome Neiduski as the first woman to lead the college.
“In the tradition of Martin Luther and all the Lutheran men who have come before, to openly acknowledge that a woman can be the best candidate and have the most forward-looking vision is more significant than I can put into words,” said Debora Johnson-Ross, the vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty.
While it is notable that Neiduski will be the first female president of Wartburg, her list of accomplishments and desire to better the world is what put her over the top.
“To me, it seems quite natural that the next president would be a woman,” said Colson. “She was the candidate who rose to the top, regardless of sex. I was thinking that her picture will look so different next to the other 17 pictures of old guys down by the ballrooms.”
A life of accomplished leadership and long list of credentials stood out to students when Neiduski was announced as the next president of Wartburg.
“Her resume is impressively long. The versatility of what she’s done is so cool because she’s had her hands in lots of different areas,” said second-year journalism and communication major Nick Van Laningham. “I just think she seems like a very neat lady.”
Neiduski’s volunteer work with the Guatemala Healing Hands Foundation is something that led her to stand out to the search committee and the Wartburg community.
“It’s very emotional to hear her talk about the people that she serves through the organization in Guatemala,” said Colson. “Hearing about people who are in need of services, particularly therapy and surgery is very powerful. It’s such gripping work.”
Before beginning her career in academics, Neiduski was, and still practices as, an occupational therapist.
The skills and understanding that she gained as an occupational therapist have impacted every part of Neiduski’s life.
“Being an occupational therapist has helped me think differently, adapt, and pivot,” said Neiduski. “Every time I’m faced with a situation, I think, ‘how can we make this better?’”
Neiduski’s career as an occupational therapist intertwines with Wartburg’s values of leadership and service.
“Her work as an occupational therapist proves that she has a heart and mind for service,” said Johnson-Ross. “It shows in the outcomes of her work, and that is what really impressed me.”
Until she steps into office at Wartburg, Neiduski will continue serving in her current role as the dean of the School of Health Sciences at Elon University.
At Elon, Neiduski created the first undergraduate program in the School of Health Sciences.
“Creating an undergraduate nursing program would have been hard in any case, but she did it in the midst of a pandemic,” said Colson. “It’s a really, really impressive achievement to give birth to an undergraduate program in nursing.”
With Neiduski’s presidency approaching, students hope that she will continue Colson’s legacy of involvement with the students and Wartburg community as a whole.
“I’m hoping that she’s just as involved as President Colson,” said third-year Psychology major Rylee Zobac. “And personally, I’m just so excited to finally have a female president.”
As Neiduski’s presidency approaches, Colson and Johnson-Ross wish her well and extend their support and advice.
“The advice I would give to any president is to really dig deep into the culture of the place,” said Colson. “Of course, that advice is sort of obvious and that’s exactly what she intends to do. She really wants to become a vital and vibrant part of the community, which I think she will do.”
Johnson-Ross reiterated the sentiment that Neiduski already has the skills she needs to thrive at Wartburg.
“I don’t know that she needs my advice,” said Johnson-Ross. “Being a thoughtful and critical listener is important. I already know that she has that skill and it’s not something everyone has. Having the ability to listen is the thing that will help her the most.”
Neiduski wants the Wartburg community to know that she is excited to learn and grow alongside students, faculty, and staff.
“I really want to be engaged and be part of the community. My husband does as well and we have three dogs that are ready to play with students all day long,” said Neiduski.
Neidusk will take office on July 1.