• Southwestern University

To the Members of the Southwestern University Community: 

I write today to let you know that Dr. Burger will be stepping down as President of Southwestern University, effective January 2020, to take a new position as President and CEO of St. David’s Foundation, one of the nation’s largest healthcare foundations focusing on health and education. While we are saddened by Dr. Burger’s departure, we celebrate all that Southwestern has accomplished under his visionary, dynamic, and thoughtful leadership over the last six years and wish him the very best in his new role.

I am pleased to announce that beginning January 2020, one of our trustees, Dr. Dale Knobel, President Emeritus of Denison University and former Provost at Southwestern, will serve as Interim President. Dr. Knobel’s experience in and knowledge of higher education generally and Southwestern University in particular is unparalleled. We are fortunate to have him as part of our community, and thankful for his willingness to serve in this important leadership role during this time of transition. Dr. Burger will continue to be hard at work at the University through his departure and coordinating closely with Dr. Knobel to ensure a smooth transition. I also know that Dr. Burger will continue to be a passionate advocate for the University for years to come. 

The Board of Trustees is forming a committee to conduct the search for our 16th president, who will build on the foundation of our distinguished 179-year history. We expect the search committee to include representatives of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees to ensure that our various stakeholders have a voice in this important process. The search committee will hold its first meeting early this fall, and our goal is to install a new president no later than July 1, 2020. We have also established a Presidential Search page on the Southwestern website to keep you informed as our search progresses. You can find that page here.

Additionally, on Monday, September 9th at 12:30 p.m., in Alma Thomas Theater, we will hold a Campus Town Hall Meeting where President Burger and I, along with Interim President Knobel, Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Henry Joyner, and Trustee Lynn Parr Mock will be available to answer questions.

We are deeply grateful to Dr. Burger—our colleague, teacher, and friend who has given us so much of himself to make Southwestern stand out as a place that values and delivers distinctive, high-impact learning through intellectual and personal growth that lasts a lifetime. He personifies Think, create, connect—To make meaning and make a difference.

We are also grateful to our students and alumni, faculty and staff, and parents and friends of the University who have been so supportive and opportunity-focused as we worked together during Dr. Burger’s tenure to make our beloved institution an even better place to foster a vibrant community of scholars who contribute toward the well-being of humanity. 

Over the last six years, together with Dr. Burger we have created:

  • A comprehensive strategic vision and direction for the University.
  • A state-of-the-art, interconnected Paideia curriculum that invites students to intentionally make connections as they think through their disciplines.
  • The Jack and Camille Garey School of Natural Sciences and the new $40 million Fondren-Jones Science Center, which is nearly double the size of our previous science building and designed to support active and collaborative learning as well as research by both faculty and students.
  • The development and launch of Mosaic and the Residential Experience, intentionally designed to advance the life of the mind in the co-curricular and residential components of a Southwestern education.
  • Record-setting enrollments, with the five largest classes in the University’s history.
  • More than ten new named chairs and professorships.
  • Over $100 million in gifts and pledges to advance the mission and vision of the University.
  • A balanced budget for six consecutive years and strong financial vitality going forward.
  • Growth in the endowment from $253 million to $297 million. 

As we look forward, we expect this extraordinary collaboration to continue to flourish. As Dr. Burger himself has said, “It is that positive and mindful kinetic energy today that will ensure Southwestern University’s potential for and promise of an even brighter tomorrow.”

Stephen G. Tipps
Chair of the Board of Trustees