The president of Bethel University, a Christian campus in Arden Hills, announced he will retire next year after a 25-year career at the school.
Jay Barnes has served as Bethel’s president since 2008, when he was promoted from his position as provost. During his tenure at the helm of the 5,600-student campus, the university increased its racial diversity, launched a summer research program, grew its business and economics offerings and added campus buildings, including a wellness center.
In a message to the campus community, Barnes also acknowledged that recent years have brought challenges, including a dip in undergraduate enrollment and a sharp decline in the number of seminary students.
Barnes vowed to leave the university on a healthy footing when he steps down in June 2020.
“Advancing and enhancing Bethel’s mission is in my heart — and I want to leave Bethel stronger than when I started,” he said.
The university said it will share plans for finding Barnes’ replacement in the coming weeks. Julie White, the governing board’s chairwoman, said even as it looks for a new leader, the university will take time to celebrate Barnes.
“His passion for students and this community shine through in the thousands of relationships he’s formed during his 25 years at Bethel,” she said in a statement.
Before moving to Minnesota to become Bethel’s provost in 1995, Barnes worked as a teacher and principal at a school in Germany and later as a residence director and dean at colleges in the United States. At Bethel, he guided the campus transition from a college and seminary to a university in 2004.
As provost in the early 2000s, he also navigated an outcry over racist messages on campus and hosted a visit by a gay rights group looking to engage students on Christian campuses that have statements in opposition of homosexuality or same-sex marriage.
During his presidency, he established the Edgren Scholars program, which offers faculty and students grants to work on summer research projects. He also oversaw the addition of one of Minnesota’s few programs that allow students with developmental disabilities to study on college campuses.
On his watch, graduate enrollment and the number of students studying abroad increased. The percentage of students of color grew from 9 percent when he started his presidency to almost 20 percent last year.
But as overall enrollment fell amid demographic changes that have put pressure on campuses nationally, the university has also faced financial challenges, Barnes said.
In his video message, Barnes stood with his wife, Barb.
“In the next 16 months, I will work hard to finish well,” he said.