Modernist Monastery Appoints First Lay President
April 10, 2012
Michael Hemesath named 13th president of Saint John’s University
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. – Michael Hemesath, professor of economics at Carleton College, has been appointed the 13th president of Saint John’s University by the university’s Board of Regents. He will begin his official duties on July 1, 2012. A 1981 SJU graduate, Hemesath is the first lay president in the 155-year history of the institution.
“The selection of a lay president represents a new era in the long history of Saint John's University, yet I want to emphasize the continuity that will be at the heart of this transition,” Hemesath said. “A Saint John's education has been transformative for generations of young men precisely because of the Catholic Benedictine heritage that makes this institution a rare and wonderful gift to higher education. The privilege of serving as Saint John's 13th president is both tremendously exciting and humbling. The Saint John's community both shaped and shapes me, and it is a rare gift to be able to lead my alma mater through this important transition in the relationship between the monastery and the university.”
Hemesath, 53, graduated summa cum laude from SJU with a degree in economics and received his master’s and doctorate in economics from Harvard University. He has been on the economics faculty at Carleton since 1989 and has served as faculty president since 2009. Before coming to Carleton, he was on the faculty for two years at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. His wife, Elizabeth, teaches in the religion department at St. Olaf College, and they have a son, Cameron.
“I was reminded throughout the search process of the many groups who care deeply about this place, this institution, from the members of the monastic community, to the many alumni around the world, to the staff and faculty and the student body,” Hemesath said. “It is clear that I will have exceptional support from the community as we build a strong and vibrant future for Saint John's.”
“The Board selected Dr. Hemesath because he is passionate about Saint John’s University’s ability to transform young men’s lives through its commitment to the liberal arts and its embodiment of Benedictine values, and because of his outstanding background as a scholar and faculty leader at Carleton College,” said Ann Huntrods, chair of Saint John’s Board of Regents. “Dr. Hemesath is uniquely qualified to lead Saint John’s at this historic time. It is apparent that Dr. Hemesath understands the importance of the ties between the university and the abbey even as their relationship evolves.”
In addition to teaching micro and macroeconomics, Hemesath teaches courses on international economics, Soviet and post-Soviet economics and health economics. His research interests focus on the challenges facing the former communist countries as they reform their political and economic systems. This research has taken him to Russia and given him the opportunity to teach in the master's degree program at Kiev-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine. Hemesath participated in the Pew Fellowship in International Affairs at Harvard in 1990-91, and has been using cases in his courses ever since. Hemesath is currently the director of EthIC, the Ethical Inquiry at Carleton program. The program is designed to develop curricular and co-curricular activities that encourage the exploration of ethical issues throughout the Carleton community.
Hemesath is also deeply committed to off-campus studies programs. He has directed three Associated Colleges of the Midwest programs in Krasnodar, Russia, and has been faculty director for Carleton's Economics Seminar at Cambridge University five times, most recently in summer of 2007.
“On behalf of the Saint John’s community, I extend a warm welcome to Dr. Hemesath,” said the Rev. Robert Koopmann, OSB, 12th president of Saint John’s University. “I am confident he possesses the personal skills and professional experience needed to lead this great institution. He brings with him a thorough understanding of contemporary higher education and a deep appreciation for the Benedictine values that are so important to our community.”
“I am delighted that Saint John's University has chosen Dr. Hemesath as its next president, and I am eager to begin our partnership in leading these two great institutions,” said MaryAnn Baenninger, president of the College of Saint Benedict. “His background and qualifications are stellar. More importantly, he has high aspirations for SJU, as I do for CSB. I believe that together our leadership will guarantee a bright future for CSB/SJU.”
Hemesath is the first layperson to be appointed to a full presidential term at Saint John's University. Daniel Whalen '70 served as interim president from 2008-2009.