Luther College names Dr. Jenifer K. Ward as 11th president

Dr. Jenifer K. Ward, provost and dean of the college for Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, Louisiana, has been unanimously elected Luther College’s 11th president, announced today by Luther’s Board of Regents.

In addition to her duties as provost and dean of the college, Ward served as professor of modern language and culture, and as the Caroline and Ed Crawford Eminent Scholars Chair of Liberal Arts at Centenary, the only tier-one national liberal arts college in Louisiana.

“Dr. Ward is a visionary and passionate leader who has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to effectively lead transformational change with an inclusive and collaborative style that builds relationships and inspires and motivates her colleagues across campus to achieve a shared vision,” said J. Robert Paulson, Jr., vice chair of Luther’s Board of Regents, chair of the presidential search committee and 1978 Luther alumnus.

“In today’s world where higher education and global societies are rapidly evolving, she is an authentic and servant leader who is committed to the enduring value of a Luther education. We are honored and excited to welcome Dr. Ward as the 11th president of Luther College,” said Paulson.

Ward’s appointment follows the five-year tenure of Dr. Paula J. Carlson, Luther’s 10th president. Carlson is retiring June 30, 2019.

Wendy Davidson, chair of Luther’s Board of Regents and 1992 Luther alumna, said, “On behalf of the Board of Regents, I want to thank Dr. Carlson for her leadership and passion over the past five years. She’s demonstrated a continued willingness to put Luther first and partnered with the board in courageous conversations to balance short term realities while building a strategic path to the future. We are grateful for her work with the cabinet, faculty and staff in setting a strong foundation and know she will graciously partner with Dr. Ward for a smooth leadership transition.”

Ward will begin her duties as president of Luther College July 1, 2019.

We are at a crucial inflection point in the history of liberal arts education in our country, and in a world that needs the kind of graduates Luther College fosters,” said Ward. “Everyone I met during the search process impressed me with their tough questions, their love for Luther, and their commitment to ensuring a bright future for our students and the communities and environments they will help steward. I look forward to exploring Decorah and to joining in the work of the generations who have shaped the legacy of this great institution.”

More than 15 departments reported to Ward as provost at Centenary, including Academic Affairs, which houses all of the college’s academic departments, schools and programs; Student Development; Residence Life; Career Services; and Integrated Advising. She was responsible for overseeing roughly half of the college’s annual $25 million operating budget.

Ward’s experience in higher education is punctuated by a love of the liberal arts. Her work at Centenary as provost included integrating a liberal arts curriculum with co-curricular programming to “shape an educational experience designed to promote the intentional intellectual, creative, personal and professional growth of the whole student,” according to Ward.

Prior to her time at Centenary, Ward served as dean of the college, interim provost and associate provost at the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. She was chair of the Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures Department at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota, where she also taught German. Ward began her academic career with faculty appointments at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio.

A distinguished scholar, Ward earned her Ph.D. in Germanic languages and literatures from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and received her Bachelor of Arts with distinction from Hendrix College in her hometown of Conway, Arkansas. She also completed a certificate program, “The Principles and Techniques of Fundraising,” from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She is the co-editor of the book, “Reworking the German Past: Adaptation in Film, the Arts, and Popular Culture.”

President-elect Ward was elected by the Luther College Board of Regents following a unanimous recommendation from the 13-member presidential search committee. The members of the search committee included individuals representing Luther’s Board of Regents, students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff and the city of Decorah. The search process was supported by Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates, who assembled a robust pool of distinguished individuals from top-tier colleges, universities and comprehensive organizations outside of academia.

As Luther’s 11th president, Ward joins the legacy of presidents Paula J. Carlson (2014-19), Richard L. Torgerson (1999-2013), Jeffrey D. Baker (1996-99), H. George Anderson (1982-95), Elwin D. Farwell (1963-81), J.W. Ylvisaker (1948-62), Ove J.H. Preus (1932-48), Oscar L. Olson (1921-32), Christian Keyser Preus (1902-21), and Peter Laurentius (Laur.) Larsen (1861-1902).

A Phi Beta Kappa institution, Luther is a residential liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,005. The college offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. More information is available at

President-elect Dr. Jenifer K. Ward