Minnesota’s largest private university will officially start the new year with a new president.
The University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees has unanimously selected Robert K. Vischer as the 16th president of the 137-year-old Catholic university. Vischer, a longtime law school educator who became St. Thomas’ interim president earlier this year, will be the second layperson to assume the role.
Vischer has a storied tenure at St. Thomas. He served as dean of the university’s law school from 2013-22, rising through its ranks from when he started as associate professor of law in 2005. The appointment follows a nationwide search for a new president after Dr. Julie Sullivan’s 2013-22 tenure. Vischer will assume the permanent role on Jan. 1, 2023.
The announcement comes as St. Thomas approaches an important juncture in its history as it continues its decadeslong evolution from one of Minnesota’s small liberal arts colleges to a national Catholic university.
“Rob is known as a highly effective relational leader with a strong dedication to the mission of the university and someone who puts the students at the center of every decision and action,” said Dr. Amy Goldman, CEO and chair of the GHR Foundation, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and vice chair of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees. “The board has put its faith in Rob as the leader who will continue the St. Thomas trajectory to become the undisputed premier private university in the Midwest.
“Throughout our national recruitment for this position, we heard very positive feedback about the reputation of St. Thomas as an innovative institution with a bright future. Rob will build upon the strong assets of this outstanding institution and lead it to even greater impact and reach,” Goldman said.
St. Thomas is approaching the midway point of its latest five-year strategic plan, St. Thomas 2025. Since transitioning from a college to a university in 1990, St. Thomas has opened two additional campuses (Minneapolis and Rome, Italy); multiple schools and colleges; several new facilities; and became the first modern NCAA program to transition from Division III to Division I athletics.
This past fall, the university welcomed its most diverse class of first-year students in its history and celebrated a record year of fundraising to support programming across the university, including construction of what will be St. Thomas’ largest academic building on its St. Paul campus, the Schoenecker Center (which will open in 2024).
“Even though St. Thomas has been changing lives since 1885, I firmly believe that we’re just getting started, and our best days are ahead,” Vischer said.
Vischer is highly regarded for his role as dean of the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Over the course of his deanship, the law school has dramatically improved employment outcomes for its graduates, built a global student body by establishing partnerships with law schools in more than a dozen countries, redoubled its commitment to whole-person professional formation, maintained its top 25 ranking for scholarly impact, and made racial justice core to its mission.
He was an inaugural recipient of the Minnesota Lawyer Diversity and Inclusion Award for his contributions to the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the practice of law.
Before entering the legal academy, Vischer clerked for three federal judges and was associated with Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago, where he practiced corporate litigation. He received his bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, from the University of New Orleans, and his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
“I am humbled to be able to build on the mission-centered stewardship of our past presidents who stayed true to our mission and focused relentlessly on doing right by our students,” Vischer said. “The mission of St. Thomas has a remarkable capacity to inspire because it calls us to a reality that is bigger than ourselves. I am excited about what we can do together to transform lives and advance the common good.”
Vischer and his wife, Maureen, live in Minneapolis. They have three daughters – Sophia, Lila and Ava.