BLOOMINGTON — The provost of Hamline University in Minnesota has been selected as the 19th president of Illinois Wesleyan University, the IWU board announced Monday.
Eric Jensen has been provost at Hamline, a private school in St. Paul with an enrollment of about 4,900 students, for three years. Before that, he spent 30 years at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., the last eight as director of its Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy.
Jensen was selected in a nationwide search after Dick Wilson announced in December that he planned to retire. Wilson, who served as IWU president for 11 years, will step down at the end of October.
There were more than 250 candidates for the position, according to search committee chair Jean Baird.
She said Jensen was selected because of the quality of his administrative and executive experience, his deep passion for liberal arts, fundraising responsibilities at both of his previous institutions and his academic credentials in the field of economics.
Board Chairman George Vinyard said, “We are delighted that someone with Dr. Jensen's passion for the liberal arts and extensive experience and impressive record of accomplishment as an administrator, faculty member and scholar has accepted our invitation to serve as the 19th president of Illinois Wesleyan University.”
Jensen, who has a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan, also was awarded a tenured professorship in economics.
Vinyard declined to disclose Jensen's salary.
Baird noted that Jensen's responsibilities at Hamline went beyond that of most provosts, including oversight of student affairs and working with the chief financial officer in developing the university's budget.
Junior Jake Thaker, IWU Student Senate president, described Jensen as “phenomenal.”
Thaker, who served on the search committee, said there were many well-qualified candidates, but, “Eric stood out with his personality. Illinois Wesleyan is a school that needs this personal leadership.”
Jensen said he has “a tradition of having regular meetings with students,” adding, “I'm very much a management-by-walking-around person.”
He said, “Higher education is in a state of flux” and, although IWU is in a strong position, “we can't stand pat in a changing environment.”
Vinyard noted that IWU has had only five presidents since 1959 and four of them served more than 10 years each.
“All had one thing in common: They are leaving the university or left the university immeasurably better or stronger than when they found it,” Vinyard said.
Jensen is married with two grown children. His wife, Elizabeth, is a former middle-school teacher.