Andrea Lee, president of St. Catherine University for the past 17 years, announced Wednesday that she is resigning in July as head of the St. Paul women's college.

"I will leave next summer knowing that St. Catherine's is in a very strong position and will present an attractive call to a new leader," said Lee, the college's 10th president.

The board of trustees will soon announce its plans for a national search to recruit and select Lee's successor, said the board's chair, Karen Rauenhorst.

"President Lee has been an outstanding leader of the university, contributing to its vibrancy and steady growth for nearly two decades," Rauenhorst said. "We are grateful for her visionary leadership."

Lee, an Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters member, previously served in several leadership positions at Marygrove College in Detroit.

University officials said Lee led the university through years of record growth with overall enrollment up by more than 20 percent at a time when enrollment in women's colleges has declined by more than 30 percent nationally.

She also oversaw the university at a time when philanthropic support has led to notable improvements and creative repurposing of existing facilities, along with the construction of a new library and student center.

"Sister Andrea is a good friend," said the Rev. John Jenkins, University of Notre Dame president. "She is a highly respected colleague in Catholic higher education who has, at a time when many Catholic colleges have struggled, increased St. Catherine's enrollment while deepening its commitment to its Catholic mission."

Mary Lynn Smith