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President Anne Blackhurst to retire in 2023

President Anne Blackhurst to retire in 2023

Anne Blackhurst, who has led Minnesota State University Moorhead as president for the past eight years, announced Tuesday that she will retire on June 30, 2023. 

“Few things are as important to me as our mission of preparing students for their futures. Stepping away from MSUM—and the Dragon family—will not be easy,” Blackhurst said. “But I firmly believe it’s a leader’s responsibility to know when the time is right for someone new to take the lead. After eight years as MSUM’s president, and an especially challenging year for me personally, I’ve made the difficult decision to retire.”

Blackhurst was named the university’s 11th president in 2014 after a national search, stepping into that role after three years of serving as MSUM’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. 

“President Blackhurst has provided strong leadership for the university and prepared it well to navigate it through some challenging times, including the pandemic. During her tenure as president, the university undertook intensive review of the academic programming and, in particular, experienced an expansion in graduate programs and enrollments. She led the efforts to redesign the university’s facilities to enhance and support the educational experience students need and deserve. Under her stewardship MSUM successfully completed a $60 million-dollar capital campaign, a great accomplishment,” said Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra. “Clearly, she has put MSUM on a sustainable path both programmatically and financially. She will leave behind a lasting legacy and a strong forward-looking institutional momentum.”

Known as “President Anne” on campus, Blackhurst led the university through the development of a strategic framework, articulating MSUM’s purpose, mission, core values and strategic anchors. 

·       MSUM’s core values of grit, humility and heart ring true for students, employees and alumni alike – they are invoked by alums recounting their experiences at MSUM, long before the values were articulated, and cited as reasons new employees are drawn to MSUM.

·       President Blackhurst demonstrates her Dragon Pride with her signature red blazer. She’s worn red every day of her presidency. 

·       An early adopter of social media, President Blackhurst shares the story of MSUM through her eyes with more than 10.7K tweets from @PrezBlackhurst.

Under Blackhurst’s leadership, MSU Moorhead made advancements that will ensure the university is well-positioned for the future and a presidential transition.

Access, Enrollment & Student Success

·       MSUM increased access to a college degree by being one of the first Minnesota State universities to eliminate the ACT admission requirement and investing more than $1 million to improve scholarships.

·       Graduate enrollment has more than doubled, comprising about 20 percent of the university’s total enrollment. 

·       Four-year graduation rates have improved by 13 percent and six-year graduation rates by 10 percent, including a 12 percent increase in the graduation rate for students of color.


·       MSUM prioritized and focused our resources on programs that meet workforce needs. The first doctoral program in MSUM’s history – the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership – launched in 2017 and is now enrolling its sixth cohort.

·       The Essentia Health partnership created the Essentia Health Center for Nursing and launched MSUM’s new Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The first nursing cohort graduated in July of this year. 

·       The Marcil Center for Innovative Journalism collaboration with Forum Communications was created to enhance MSUM’s long-standing reputation for producing highly qualified media professionals.

·       New master’s degree programs include criminal justice, social work, and athletic training; new undergraduate programs were added in global supply chain management, entertainment industry technology, animation and cybersecurity.


Blackhurst kicked off her presidential tenure with a commitment to build key fundraising partnerships. An avid runner, Blackhurst’s inauguration theme capitalized on Laps for the Long Run. She personally pledged $1,000 per lap she ran up to $50,000 to fund the President’s Merit Scholarship. This was the largest single fundraising event in MSUM history and raised $1.2 million, including $20,000 per lap from Scheels.  

During her tenure, MSUM received three of the largest single gifts in its history:

·       A $5 million donation from Rodney and Carolyn Paseka established the Paseka School of Business to support scholarships for business school students and fund research, faculty positions, and program development.  

·       A $4.3 million gift from the estate of alumnus Thomas Peter Von Bahr funded scholarships for students majoring in the arts and humanities and a center named in honor of Thomas’s parents: The Tom and Adrienne Bahr Center for the Arts and Humanities. 

·       A $5 million estate gift from alumnus and former MSUM employee Larry Dahlsad to support scholarships for business students.

The Vision 2020 Campaign, the first comprehensive campaign in MSUM history, raised more than $60 million to support student success, academic programs, and a new alumni center to be completed in 2023.

“Together, we’ve transformed the lives of thousands of students and their families, preparing them to transform their professions and communities. I can’t think of a more important contribution to our collective future—or a more meaningful conclusion to my career. Serving as MSUM’s 11th president has been an honor and a privilege,” Blackhurst said. 

Beyond university impact, Blackhurst has fully engaged in community leadership roles with the United Way, FMWF Chamber of Commerce, Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, Downtown Moorhead, Inc. (founding member), Tri-College University (two terms as Board Chair), and Greater Minnesota Partnership among others.

Prior to joining MSU Moorhead, Blackhurst served at Minnesota State University, Mankato as acting vice president for academic and student affairs (2010-11), as interim dean and dean of graduate studies and research (2006-10), as chair of the department of counseling and student personnel (2000-01 and 2005-06), and as professor in the department of counseling and student personnel (2004-11). She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Boise State University, a master’s degree in counseling from the College of Idaho, and a doctorate in college student personnel from Ohio University.

The Minnesota State Chancellor’s Office will begin a national search. The search will kick off early this fall with the goal of identifying an individual in early spring. Chancellor Malhotra will visit with students, faculty, staff, and community members by early October to listen and learn about the future aspirations for MSU Moorhead.