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LEBANON — The McKendree University Board of Trustees has unanimously approved another multi-year extension of the employment agreement with President James M. Dennis.

dennis jamesBoard Chair Daniel J. Lett ’91, made the announcement following the Nov. 3 trustees’ meeting. “The Board is pleased with the direction of McKendree and credits much of the success of the university in recent years to Dr. Dennis’ leadership and the team he has assembled,” said Lett. “Over the past 23 years, through his vision, leadership and tireless devotion, McKendree has experienced a renaissance.”

Dennis became the 32nd president of McKendree College in 1994. During his tenure, the university has completed new construction of academic and fine arts buildings, athletic facilities, and major renovation of historic campus buildings, with more on the horizon. Since his arrival, the university has raised $75 million and has made great strides toward the $40 million goal of its present campaign. Gifts to Forward: The Campaign for McKendree University, a key piece of the university’s long-term strategic plan, have surpassed $30 million.

In 2007, the president led the successful effort to transform the college to a university. Since then McKendree has expanded its academic curricula to offer 52 undergraduate majors and graduate degree programs in education, business administration, human resource management, nursing, clinical mental health counseling and criminal justice. In 2011, it introduced a doctoral program in education in curriculum design and instruction, and in 2016 a doctorate in nursing practice and ethical leadership.

Beyond the classroom, Dennis has been the architect of growth in co-curricular programs to include marching band and show choir. In addition, McKendree changed athletic conferences, moving from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II. Earlier this year the McKendree Bearcats women’s bowling team won the university’s first NCAA National Championship.

These accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. McKendree’s growing reputation has garnered national attention. Prestigious publications and organizations, including U.S. News & World Report, America’s 100 Best College Buys® and Colleges of Distinction, have recognized McKendree for delivering a high-quality undergraduate education. For nine consecutive years, The Chronicle of Higher Education has honored the university as one of the country’s “Great Colleges to Work For.” Dr. James L. Fisher—president emeritus of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and Towson State University, and the author of several books on higher education leadership, including “Entrepreneurial College Presidents”—has described Dr. Dennis’ leadership at McKendree University as transformational.

Lett noted that many stakeholders have played a role in the university’s success in recent years. “McKendree has enjoyed strong collaboration between the board, senior leadership, faculty and the entire McKendree community. Continuity at the presidential level has contributed to strong relationships throughout our constituency,” he said. “We are very optimistic about the future.”

Throughout his presidency, Dennis has been active in numerous professional and civic organizations, including the Council of Independent Colleges, the Associated Colleges of Illinois, and the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities. Locally, he serves on the Leadership Council for Southwestern Illinois and has been active on the boards of the World Affairs Council and Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh.

-- The Illinois Business Journal via McKendree University