Two Minnesota colleges that have long shared curriculum, faculty and other resources will become even more closely connected under a plan to name a single president to oversee both schools.

The College of St. Benedict, a 107-year-old women's college in St. Joseph, and St. John's University, a 163-year-old men's college in College­ville, have been closely connected throughout their histories and created a formal partnership more than 60 years ago.

Sharing a president would provide "a more integrated structure that effectively implements new and exciting opportunities for our students while retaining our unique identities as separate schools for women and men," said the schools' boards of trustees in a memo distributed last week to students, faculty, staff and others with ties to the institutions.

Near St. Cloud just 6 miles apart and connected by shuttle, St. Benedict and St. John's operate in most ways like a single coed school, with shared courses, faculty, facilities, programs and social activities. Resident halls are one of the few ways the schools are separated — women and men live on their respective campuses. Of their approximately 3,600 undergraduate students, 53% are women and 47% men, according to the schools' joint website.

St. Benedict officials are searching for an interim president to replace President Mary Dana Hinton, who is leaving on June 30 to become president of Hollins University in Roanoke, Va., officials said. At St. John's, the term of its interim president, Eugene McAllister, is being extended. Later this year, the two boards will begin a national search for the permanent president.

Sharing a president would allow "more effective and nimble decision-making and execution while retaining each school's unique identity," the memo said. The boards are still determining how a single leadership model would work, focusing on legal issues and "the optimal governance structure."

St. Benedict and St. John's University are Catholic, Benedictine liberal arts colleges, founded by St. Benedict's Monastery and St. John's Abbey. Revenues and expenses at the two schools are similar, although according to research by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, St. John's endowment is $208.7 million — about two and a half times the size of St. Benedict's $83.5 million.

Katy Read • 612-673-4583