CEDAR RAPIDS — Having crisscrossed the country in his academic endeavors — serving as a dean for colleges and universities in Washington state, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida — Cedar Rapids native Robert “Bob” Beatty is returning home this summer to be the president of Mount Mercy University.
Beatty — who less than a year ago began serving as dean of the Soules Henry B. Tippie College of Business at the University of Texas at Tyler — will take over as Mount Mercy’s 10th president July 1, according to a news release from the Catholic university of about 1,800 undergraduate and graduate students.
He’ll succeed Laurie Hamen, who last May announced plans to leave June 30, 2020, after six years on the job. At age 59, Hamen at the time said she and her husband wanted to return to Minnesota — where she’s from — to be nearer to their grandchildren.
Hamen — who in 2014 became the first female president in 37 years for the school founded by women, the Sisters of Mercy in 1928 — called the decision to leave “difficult.”
“However, having served colleges and universities for nearly 35 years, it is the right time for me to pursue new opportunities,” she said at the time.
The Mount Mercy board of trustees last summer began its search for her replacement atop the liberal arts school, which offers degrees in more than 45 programs in eight departments.
Beatty earned a computer science degree from Texas Christian University; a computer systems management master’s from Creighton University; and a master’s and doctorate of business administration degrees from Mississippi State University.
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He also graduated from the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education Program at Harvard University and began his professional career as a U.S. Air Force officer. From his role with the Strategic Air Command Headquarters in Omaha, Beatty transitioned to work at Amerada Hess Oil Co. and then the Kellogg Co., leading the company’s e-commerce department.
In academia, Beatty has served on the faculty at Northern Illinois, Texas Christian, and Miami universities, along with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He also served as dean of the School of Business at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash.; dean of the Rohrer Henry B. Tippie College of Business at Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J.; and dean of the Lutgert Henry B. Tippie College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla.
In his current deanship at the University of Texas-Tyler, Beatty leads four interdisciplinary areas, including human resource development, computer science, industrial technology and business. He also oversees seven university institutes and centers, including the Longview Small Business Development Center, according to Mount Mercy.
In a statement, Beatty reminisced about his childhood in Cedar Rapids and called Mount Mercy “a truly special place.”
“I have long known the transformative education the university provides,” he said. “I am delighted to join the community of educators and scholars that is wholly dedicated to helping students achieve their personal dreams and professional ambitions.”
Charlie Rohde, chairman of Mount Mercy’s board of trustees, said Beatty is a “entrepreneurial and progressive leader whose collaborative and inspirational leadership will build on the important work done by MMU’s faculty and staff.”
“His commitment to the mission and values of Mount Mercy University and his ability to guide the institution through the complex and ever-changing higher education landscape is extensive,” Rohde said in a statement. “We are absolutely thrilled to have him join us.”
Mount Mercy, like many universities and private colleges across the state and region, is facing a shifting higher education landscape — including a looming enrollment cliff, with the pool of prospective students shrinking following a dive in the birthrate during the 2008 recession. Analysts expect regional four-year colleges will be especially hard hit, but national schools will be impacted as well.
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Mount Mercy’s enrollment has been slipping annually, from 1,886 in fall 2016 to 1,808 in the most recent fall semester.
Most schools in Iowa have been upping tuition and fees — as enrollment dips and lawmakers curtail aid. At Mount Mercy, tuition and fees have increased from $25,400 in the 2012-13 academic year to $31,598 last year and $33,930 this year.
Rohde, last year, acknowledged to The Gazette that “finances are tight — just like at many private and public institutions across the state.”
“And Mount Mercy is a tuition-driven institution,” he said. “We don’t have the ability to go to the state Board of Regents to have them lobby the Legislature for more funds.
“Our funds come from tuition and alumni and other public gifts.”
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