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CLC president makes surprise announcement

Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad made a big announcement at the college's employee in-service meetings Wednesday. He revealed to faculty and staff the 2015-16 academic year would be his 10th and last at the helm of CLC, as he was re...

Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad (Submitted photo)
Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad (Submitted photo)

Central Lakes College President Larry Lundblad made a big announcement at the college's employee in-service meetings Wednesday.

He revealed to faculty and staff the 2015-16 academic year would be his 10th and last at the helm of CLC, as he was retiring at the end of the upcoming academic year.

Lundblad has worked in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System for 38 years, and started his career in education 40 years ago at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

"Hit the magic number of age 65 last May," Lundblad said. "So it's that time of life to start making some changes or changing course a little bit."

Retirement has been in the back of Lundblad's mind for a while, he said. Retirement benefits like Medicare and Social Security "give you some flexibility to make some change."

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It won't be easy to step away from his role as president, Lundblad said. Education has played a major role in his life for four decades and it can be an adjustment to retire, he said.

"I've enjoyed every minute here at CLC," Lundblad said. "Excellent faculty and staff, and of course I'll really miss the students."

Lundblad is active with many regional leadership boards, including Lakewood Health System and The Salvation Army. He'll have more time to pursue those more earnestly, he said, but is also "open to some possibilities that might come along the way."

Lundblad has a passion for gardening, so he said his green thumb will get more of a workout in retirement. He also enjoys travel, which was hard to do during his time as president because he found it difficult to unplug and get away, even during summer vacation.

"There's always something that can come along or needs attention," Lundblad said.

His wish list of travel destinations includes India, Australia and Russia.

"Maybe a Baltic cruise in the future," Lundblad said.

Highlights of Lundblad's tenure include:

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• Building strong relationships with regional K-12 school districts.

• Forming lasting relationships with regional businesses, industry and agriculture partners.

• Helping secure two major Department of Labor grants for the college.

• Positioning the college to be a partner in regional and statewide economic development efforts.

Fostering those K-12 school district relationships has been a passion of Lundblad's, he said. He strived to provide opportunities to underserved or economically distressed students who might not connect with higher education otherwise.

"We're doing that on a larger scale here than maybe the other parts of the state," Lundblad said.

The agriculture and energy center at CLC's Staples campus has also seen great development during Lundblad's tenure, he said.

"It's been fun to watch that. My background is ag," Lundblad said. "I've taken a keen interest in that."

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A national search for CLC's next president will get underway this fall. Steven Rosenstone, MnSCU chancellor, will visit Brainerd in early fall to gather input on the qualities critical to the success of the new president.

As part of the process, a search advisory committee will be formed and will include students, faculty, staff, community leaders and a MnSCU president. The newly appointed president is expected to start July 1, 2016.

Once the new president is named, Lundblad said his focus will turn to easing the transition for him or her.

"I really want to work with the new person coming in to really help them get a sense of what's going on," Lundblad said.

The hardest part about retirement might be letting go and stepping back from being involved in so many different things, Lundblad said. He's spoken to friends who have retired who have told him about the adjustment retirement requires.

"I may be having more time on my hands at first than I know what to do with," Lundblad said with a laugh.

He probably won't notice the changes of retirement until the beginning of fall next year, Lundblad said. It'll be difficult to have school starting again "and I'm not there," he said.

"Maybe that's time to take a trip," Lundblad said.

Wednesday, friends and colleagues offered their thoughts on Lundblad's announcement.

Jeff Wig, manager of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, was a faculty member at CLC when Lundblad was hired and he then promoted Wig to a dean position. He worked with Lundblad as a dean at the college for five years.

"I had a real close working relationship with him and we got along very, very well," Wig said.

Wig has stayed connected to CLC and Lundblad as a member of the CLC Foundation, which he joined shortly after he left the college.

"Larry has always done a really nice job of representing the college out in the community and keeping us connected," Wig said. "I definitely will miss his presence."

The airport stays connected with CLC through the Bridges Career Academy, Wig said, and the college offers some Internet-based introduction to aviation classes.

Lundblad has been a key participant in helping to move the community forward to create professional job opportunities, said Sheila Haverkamp, Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. executive director. Haverkamp said Lundblad has been very engaged in the effort to help create those job opportunities particularly in the technical services industry. Lundblad looked at what CLC could do to benefit its students and the community, Haverkamp said.

When business leaders and economic development agencies spoke about concerns for a skills gap between graduates and job openings, Haverkamp said Lundblad took the initiative to reach out to other higher educational institutions. He was instrumental in getting an $18 million Department of Labor and Industry grant to create programs for degrees and certificates. The effort grew the courses offered at CLC to help train the workforce.

Through Lundblad's efforts, Haverkamp said higher education worked in partnership with businesses and economic development. Haverkamp said companies in the Brainerd lakes area that work with technology are now reaping the benefits as students are better prepared for job opportunities.

Brainerd Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian said Lundblad had "exceptional skill in interacting with the business community." He was also very responsive to workforce development needs, Kilian said.

Kilian pointed to Lundblad's ability to ensure that programs there meet the needs of the local business community and give students the best opportunity to succeed, saying, "all of those things will be missed."

Lundblad also did an excellent job of representing the college in the community, Kilian said.

"People know his name, they know his voice," Kilian said. "He's very approachable."

Brainerd Dispatch staff writer Zach Kayser and associate editor Renee Richardson contributed to this report.

SPENSER BICKETT may be reached at 218-855-5859 or spenser.bickett@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/spenserbickett .

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