Central Lakes College: Lundblad leaves lights on for successor

After a decade of serving as president at Central Lakes College, Larry Lundblad's final day at the institution is fast approaching. Lundblad's last day is June 30, with new president Hara Charlier taking over on July 1. Lundblad said he's spent a...

Outgoing Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad poses for a photo in his office on Monday. Lundblad's last day at the college is June 30. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)
Outgoing Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad poses for a photo in his office on Monday. Lundblad's last day at the college is June 30. (Brainerd Dispatch/Spenser Bickett)

After a decade of serving as president at Central Lakes College, Larry Lundblad's final day at the institution is fast approaching.

Lundblad's last day is June 30, with new president Hara Charlier taking over on July 1. Lundblad said he's spent a lot of time during his last two weeks working with Charlier on the presidential transition. Some of those tasks include working on the budget, waiting to see if the state Legislature will call a special session, and updating strategic and academic plans.

"Certainly need to focus on some of the things that are currently in place," Lundblad said.

Lundblad has been emailing with Charlier and speaking with her on the phone. She's also made a few trips to campus and will stop by a couple of times before July 1, as well. She's also been working with the college's administrators, he said, and getting up to speed on the various departments.

"I want to be as helpful as I can be," Lundblad said.


The college administration is extremely important during the transition period, Lundblad said. It'll take a new president six months to a year to get acquainted with the college, he said, so administrators will be key to helping Charlier understand CLC. She has an excellent background and knows the value of two-year colleges, he said.

After June 30, Lundblad will be available to help Charlier if she asks him, but he's not going to force it. In a smaller community, it's important for Lundblad to step out of the picture and not get in the way of the new president, he said.

"She needs to have the freedom to assess and move forward," Lundblad said.

Charlier comes to CLC at a unique time, Lundblad said. New Brainerd Public Schools Superintendent Laine Larson takes over her position on July 1. Staples Motley School District Superintendent Mary Klamm just wrapped up her first year at the district.

"Three new leaders coming in," Lundblad said. "They'll have a chance to assess and establish relationships."

It'll take each of them time to learn about their communities and institutions, Lundblad said, but it's also a great opportunity for them to forge strong relationships. It'll also be good to have fresh eyes coming to the area, he said, in order to bring a new perspective to established patterns.

Political foray

Lundblad spent part of his last year as CLC president on a brief run for a state House of Representatives seat. In February, he announced his plans to seek the Republican endorsement for the House District 9A seat, currently held by Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore. Anderson had announced he was retiring from his seat and was not seeking re-election.


In April, Republicans from Minnesota Senate District 9, which includes House Districts 9A and 9B, endorsed Lake Shore Mayor John Poston for the House District 9A seat. Lundblad then dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Poston.

The campaign was an interesting experience, Lundblad said, as it had been a long time since he was involved in partisan politics. He'd been a longtime political advocate for the college and the MnSCU system, he said, but that involved working across partisan lines.

"In my position as president, you work with everyone, Democrats and Republicans," Lundblad said.

Lundblad said he was disappointed in the result of his race, but he respects Poston and thinks he will be a great candidate.

"I wish him the best," Lundblad said. "He'll be a good voice for the region."

Running for office brought Lundblad in close contact with people he would have represented. He got to hear about the issues important to them, he said, which included security, taxes, health care costs and transportation.

"There's just a lot of uncertainty right now and you can see that playing out every day," Lundblad said. "And I heard that locally as well."

Lundblad didn't rule out future involvement in politics after he retired from CLC. He's planning to stay in the area and take a break for a few months. But, he's interested in getting back to work at some point. He's not sure what arena that would be in, but he wants to be "involved in helping make change."


"That's kind of what I've been doing as a president and I'd like to continue that in some way," Lundblad said.

Last year

During the first part of the year, Lundblad said he didn't notice much difference between his last year and his first nine. But as the year went on, he realized as he worked on tasks he wouldn't be able to see some of them through to completion.

"You're really busy with so many things," Lundblad said. "Sometimes during the year it was like, 'Oh yeah, that's right, I'm not going to be here.'"

There's a few things Lundblad said he wishes he could be around to see to completion. These include grants and new programs, as well as opportunities to connect programs to area high schools, creating career ladders for students.

"It would be fun to be here another year or two to see that really come to fruition," Lundblad said.

During the year, the college focused on creating pathways for high school students to start taking college courses through different programs, Lundblad said. Streamlining the process will bring more students to higher education in the long term, he said.

"I know a lot of these things, a new president will be championing as well," Lundblad said.


Lundblad's last graduation ceremonies, on May 11-12 at the Brainerd and Staples campuses, were "pretty emotional, knowing it was going to be the last one," he said. Students recognized Lundblad and his wife, which was touching, he said.

"Graduations are always the high point of the year," Lundblad said. "This one, of course, we'll always remember."

Students from each campus presented Lundblad with a gift during his last year, which joined a couple of award recognitions he received during the year.

"Those were some nice honors to receive," Lundblad said.

Looking back

Lundblad, 66, has worked in the MnSCU system for 39 years and started his career in education 41 years ago at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The accomplishment Lundblad said he's most proud of at CLC is the connection he forged between the college and regional high schools, as well as area businesses. He's been able to strengthen and deepen those connections during his time, he said. The College in the Schools program has also been greatly expanded during his tenure.

"Students that probably necessarily wouldn't have gone onto higher education got a start in high school and thought, 'Gee, I can do this.'" Lundblad said.


Grants have been able to expand the college's manufacturing programs and provide up-to-date equipment required for students to succeed, Lundblad said.

Lundblad said he hopes people remember him as someone who was interested in students and tried to put their needs first. He always had an open door policy, he said, and tried to be approachable.

"Really focused on the students and helping them to achieve their goals," Lundblad said.


The past decade at CLC saw enrollment spike during the Great Recession as more people went back to school for more training in a competitive job market. From about 2008-2012, enrollment grew rapidly, Lundblad said, and the college's average student age increased as well. The college, along with the entire MnSCU system, has started settling back to pre-recession enrollment numbers.

Education itself is changing rapidly, Lundblad said, and the use of technology in the classroom has become paramount. Students have a wide variety of options for taking classes online. Many students now take classes from multiple colleges in the same semester, he said.

"Those options and flexibility, that type of thing, has really changed in the last 10 years," Lundblad said.

Educational change isn't slowing down, Lundblad said, and more rapid change may be coming soon. Colleges are talking about competency-based instruction, which assess students on what they know, he said.


"It either cuts down on your time or you have some options to take some other courses," Lundblad said.

It costs more to go to school now than it did a decade ago, Lundblad said. Thankfully, it's easier for students to find part-time employment now, he said, and tuition increases have been capped by the state Legislature. But it's still a balancing act for students to be able to afford to and excel at college.

"There's a lot of students that just have personal needs as well that seems to be growing," Lundblad said.

The college is more responsive now than it was when Lundblad started 10 years ago, he said. Departments work together more, he said, and student engagement has increased. The decision-making process has also become more collaborative, "and that really needs to happen a lot more," he said.

The college has also worked to become more inclusive of its diverse student population, Lundblad said. There's still a lot of work to do on that front, he said, but they've raised the awareness level.

"We're on a good path but there's a lot of work that needs to be done," Lundblad said.

What Lundblad will miss most about CLC is the students, he said. He's going to miss interacting with them and seeing them accomplish their goals, he said.

"I'm going to miss their enthusiasm, their idealism," Lundblad said. "That's what education is all about, is working with students and helping them to prepare for the future."

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or . Follow on Twitter at .

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