Bluffton University Names Dr. James M. Harder As Ninth President

The Bluffton University board of trustees announced last week the appointment of Dr. James M. Harder as the university’s ninth president, beginning with the 2006-07 academic year.

Dr. Harder, who has served as Bluffton’s vice president for institutional planning since 2003 and special assistant to the president and professor of economics since 2001, will replace Dr. Lee Snyder, who will retire in July 2006 after 10 years of service.

"We are grateful for the careful discernment and thorough process of the Search Committee and pleased to have a person of Dr. Harder's experience and ability answer the call to serve as Bluffton's next president," said Morris Stutzman, chairperson of the Bluffton University board of trustees, in a statement released on Nov. 14, 2005.

"Dr. Harder brings a personal commitment to the Mennonite/Anabaptist faith along with an openness to other faith traditions; an appreciation for and commitment to the mission of Bluffton University along with an understanding of the challenges facing private institutions of higher education; and the leadership skills to lead this university in achieving new goals that will strengthen it and continue its momentum," Stutzman said. "We appreciate his willingness to accept the call to this significant leadership position."

During his four and a half years at Bluffton, Harder has overseen the institution’s strategic planning processes and led the integrated marketing team that developed a new approach for communicating Bluffton’s distinctive qualities. He was also charged by President Snyder with leading the administrative team that developed and implemented a comprehensive plan for the transition from Bluffton College to Bluffton University that occurred on Aug. 1, 2004.

Prior to his positions at Bluffton, he was a professor of economics and business at Bethel College in Kansas for 11 years.

"Mennonite Education Agency commends Bluffton University on its selection of Jim Harder as its next president. He has been a distinguished leader in both church and academic settings for many years," said Carlos Romero, executive director of MEA, in a released statement.

"His commitment to Mennonite education, his significant and far-reaching experience and his strong Christian faith will serve Bluffton and Mennonite Church USA well," Romero added. “We offer our prayers and support to the university and to the Harder family in this exciting transition.”

According to Jim Schrag, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, "Very few persons have contributed as much to the formation of Mennonite Church USA as Jim Harder."

Harder has an extensive history with Mennonite Church USA, having served the denomination in various capacities. Since 1999, he has been a member of the denomination’s Executive Board. He currently serves on that body’s executive committee and chairs the board’s resources committee. He is also serving on the board of directors and as treasurer of Mennonite Weekly Review.

Harder was also heavily involved in the processes that led to a decision in 1999 to merge the U.S. members of two denominations to form Mennonite Church USA. He served both as a member of the committee that created the organizational framework of Mennonite Church USA, and as a member of the Transformation Team which integrated the activities of the former General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church in 2001.

In addition, during 2002-03, Harder served as an interim trustee for Mennonite Publishing Network charged with overseeing the restructuring of the business model of the former Mennonite Publishing House.

“His knowledge, wisdom and enthusiasm for this new venture in our generation have greatly influenced who we are as a church, and who we are becoming," said Schrag, in a released statement.

Prior to Mennonite Church USA, Harder served for many years with the General Conference Mennonite Church on its General Board, Division of General Services board of directors and as a Church Extension Services board member.

Upon his appointment, Harder noted Bluffton’s significant contribution to the lives of its students, to the church and to society in its 106-year history.

"I look forward to this opportunity to work within the Bluffton University community to further advance its distinctive educational mission," he said, in a released statement.

As a four-year liberal arts school, Bluffton is one of five colleges and universities in the U.S. that is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA through its education agency. It was founded in 1899 and is located in northwest Ohio. The school has been a member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities since 1991.