Vinita Sauder, president of Union College, announced her retirement effective May 31, 2024, in a letter to the board and to the campus on Thursday, July 6, 2023.
“I am excited to begin a new phase of my life after 40 years in higher education,” said Sauder. “It’s been a joy to be part of the transformational difference that education makes in students’ lives. I’ve enjoyed working with an incredible team of board members, faculty, and staff. Now it’s time to finish writing the screenplay I started years ago, spend more time with my five grandchildren, and do some traveling with my husband.”
As 29th president and the first female president, Sauder has led the private educational institution since July 2014. Operated by the Mid-America Union of Seventh-day Adventists, the college opened its doors in 1891 and is a comprehensive Christian college in Lincoln, Nebraska, offering master’s degrees, undergraduate degrees, and workforce development certificates. Specialties include training business leaders, educators, and healthcare practitioners in nursing, occupational therapy, global emergency response, and physician assistant studies.
Gary Thurber, board chair of the Union College Board of Trustees, said, “During the years that Vinita Sauder has served as president, she has provided innovation as well as stability and focus. Her leadership has been outstanding, and she has led courageously through challenging times.”
Thurber will implement the search process to replace Sauder this summer. The Board of Trustees will choose a search committee, chaired by Thurber, and made up of board members as well as representatives from the faculty, staff, and alumni.
Under Sauder’s presidency, she and her leadership team have built on unique opportunities and executed on strategic initiatives which strengthened the college. Here are a few:
- New entrance — A brick entranceway to the campus was built in 2016 at 48th and Prescott Street to bring visibility to the campus.
- Renovated learning — Classrooms and learning areas were upgraded and modernized in Engel Hall, the Nursing Simulation Center, and the Everett Dick building, including the amphitheater classroom.
- Upgraded living — 87 residence hall rooms were renovated along with the lobby spaces of two residence halls.
- AdventHealth Innovation Classroom and three endowed chairs — Thanks to gifts from AdventHealth, Union renovated a business classroom into a modern collaborative space with cutting-edge learning technology andadded two funded and endowed chairs in Business and one in Nursing.
- Wellness Center — the AdventHealth Complex and Reiner Wellness Center was conceived, designed and built to provide additional recreation facilities for Union students.
- Occupational Therapy Assistant Program — This associate degree prepares students for a high-demand, high-pay job in just two years.
- Master’s degrees — Union launched two additional master’s degrees in leadership and public health in 2023, with plans to launch another in occupational therapy in 2024.
- Workplace development certificates — Union partnered with Core Education to launch non-credit workforce certificates.
- Student Success — A $2.1 million grant launched Union’s focus on providing additional resources for students, including a life coach for every freshman.
- Fundraising records — Union raised $54 million over the decade of Sauder’s presidency, almost double the amount raised in previous decades.
- Rebrand — Union created a new visual identity and refreshed the school brand in 2021.
- Strategic Planning — Union implemented a robust strategic planning process that has helped the campus accomplish many major goals.
- Streamlining – Union restructured and streamlined the budget, moving from nine academic divisions to three schools.
Sauder maintained an open-door policy for students, employees, and parents. She held ‘Tables for 12’,‘Teas for 10’ and Christmas open houses. She and her husband Greg often entertained students and even prospective students and parents at their home.
Sauder holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Andrews University in Michigan and an MBA from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga. She serves on multiple boards including Christian Record Services for the Blind, AdventHealth, the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, the Kansas-Nebraska Conference, the Mid-America Union Conference, the Council for Independent Colleges Foundation, and the Association of Adventist Colleges and Universities. She is the past presidential sponsor for the Nebraska Women in Higher Education Leadership.
Sauder and her husband Greg have two married sons and five grandchildren.