BU̓s President Harder Announces Plans To Retire In 2018

   At the June meeting of the Bluffton University Board of Trustees, board chair Kent Yoder announced that Dr. James M. Harder, Bluffton’s ninth president, has shared his plans to retire on June 30, 2018, after serving in that role for 12 years.
   “President Harder is a servant leader who faithfully continues to carry Bluffton University into the 21st century during a time of significant change in higher education,” said Yoder. “His steady leadership has positioned the university to move forward with new academic programs, global relationships, major campus facility enhancements and to achieve the largest fundraising campaign success in the university’s history.”
   Yoder also noted how, early in his presidency, Harder guided the university community through its baseball team’s tragedy in 2007 and provided leadership to meet the challenges of the Great Recession of 2008-09. “We have deep appreciation for his steady leadership and legacy,” Yoder said.
   Harder became president in August 2006. Since that time, the university has launched 14 new academic programs, including the most recent majors in nursing and in speech-language pathology and audiology, and has made significant enhancements to existing academic, athletic and other co-curricular programs. The university achieved a successful reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission in 2009, along with program reaccreditations in education, social work and music.
   In 2012, the university completed the “Extending Our Reach” campaign, the largest in Bluffton’s history, which raised more than $32 million and fully-funded construction of the 60,000 square foot Sommer Center for Health and Fitness Education. The campaign also established the Nord-Ignat Endowed Chair in Theatre, several endowed faculty and student research grants and a number of student scholarships. Over the last decade support for the annual fund has both grown and remained strong. Giving to endowment has also grown including support for scholarships and future operations.
   Bluffton’s campus has experienced additional significant improvements during President Harder’s 12-year tenure including $3 million in student residence hall renovations and the building of the first on-campus student apartments. Other completed projects included an accessibility addition to College Hall that extended the functionality of the campus’ original building, along with accessibility upgrades to Musselman Library. 
   Multiple upgrades to Bluffton’s outdoor athletic facilities have occurred as well, including installation of the all-turf Alumni Field in Salzman Stadium, reconstruction of track and field venues, a relocated softball field, and creation of Memorial Field for baseball and the Circle of Remembrance permanent campus memorial following the 2007 baseball team’s accident. That tragedy, in an early-morning charter bus accident in Atlanta, GA, claimed the lives of student-athletes Zachary Arend, David Betts, Cody Holp, Scott Harmon and Tyler Williams, in addition to the bus driver and his wife.
   Currently, Bluffton’s “Simply Innovate” comprehensive campaign is more than half way to the university’s $26 million goal that will provide $14.5 million to build the 32,000 square foot Austin E. Knowlton Science Center and additional funds to grow the university endowment and strengthen annual support.
   During his tenure Harder worked to expand Bluffton’s global education linkages by supporting its wide range of May term cross-cultural experiences for students, and in 2014 launching Bluffton’s newest semester-long program for students in Guatemala, which includes residency of a Bluffton faculty member each semester. In addition, Harder has worked to build new relationships in China including faculty and student exchanges with China West Normal University as part of ongoing university efforts to enhance its international student recruit
ing and support. In April 2016, Harder was a special guest and invited speaker at China West’s 75th anniversary celebration.

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