Dr. Robert G. Duffett New President of Eastern University

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Kim Lownes

St. Davids, PA, July 8, 2013: Dr. Robert G. Duffett began his tenure as Eastern University's President on July 1, 2013. He replaces President David Black who retires after 15 years of dedicated service.

“Bob Duffett brings a deep sense of purpose combined with decades of impactful leadership in Christian higher education,” said Dr. Ardell Thomas, chair of the presidential search committee. “We were impressed with his skill set, his heart for ministry, and his passion for Eastern University's mission of Faith, Reason and Justice.”

Dr. Duffett said, "Connie and I sense a call to both Eastern University and this position. I look forward to leading a university that I have admired from my earliest days as a Christian. Eastern University’s commitment to integrating Faith, Reason and Justice aligns with my passion for promoting education that blends spiritual formation, intellectual substance and social action. My life has focused on fostering faith and resourcing creativity that strengthens institutions of the church. In the face of demographic and economic challenges, I am committed to encouraging Eastern's culture of entrepreneurship so its talented people may continue to develop solutions assuring middle income families and first generation learners access to an excellent education. We are eager to join the Eastern community and help extend its distinctive mission.”

For the past 27 years, Dr. Duffett has served in a variety of leadership roles in Christian higher education. His comprehensive body of work—from campus pastor to dean to doctoral studies director to provost to president—demonstrates his advanced abilities in aligning institutions around mission, elevating academic excellence, expanding access among diverse populations, and securing an abundance of financial resources for growth and development.

“Dr. Duffett’s professional accomplishments closely correlated with the requirements we identified in our presidential profile,” said Delores Brisbon, chair of the presidential transition committee. “This alignment, along with his intelligence and enthusiasm for Eastern, suggest that his leadership impact will be substantial.”

As president of Dakota Wesleyan University (DWU) for the last 12 years, Dr. Duffett has achieved national prominence for establishing the George McGovern Library, Museum and Center for Leadership and Public Service, which has attracted world leaders to discuss topics such as hunger, poverty alleviation and public service. Other key initiatives of his tenure include the Kelley Center for Entrepreneurship and the DWU Center for Talent Development, a collaboration with the Gallup Organization to strengthen student success by coordinating personal talents, educational goals and post-graduate planning. Dr. Duffett developed DWU’s strategic plan and completed the largest comprehensive campaign in its history, exceeding $40 million. His fundraising initiatives provided for the construction of five buildings and the renovation of four others on the Mitchell, SD campus. Academically, DWU added programs and locations, increased its academic profile, enhanced diversity and expanded student enrollments during Dr. Duffett’s tenure. Dr. Joseph Ditta said, “As a senior faculty member who has served through three administrations, I can assert that Dr. Duffett has accomplished more to solidify our future than any other president, not only in my time, but in the last century.”

Dr. Duffett took a leadership role in advocating for greater government support of students at South Dakota’s private colleges. In opposition to the governor’s position that state funding be limited to students at public universities, Dr. Duffett successfully argued for funding that attached to students rather than institutions. Additional efforts at the state legislature contributed to the passage of the LEAP legislation, which provides scholarships benefitting lower-income South Dakotans. Dr. Duffett’s other ambassadorial activity included chairing the Great Plains Athletic Conference and serving on the Student Aid Committee of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

For most of the two decades prior to DWU, Dr. Duffett served in leadership roles at other Christian institutions. As Provost and Academic Dean at Ottawa University, an American Baptist comprehensive university of 7,000 students with locations in four states and Asia, he led the faculty through an extensive curricular revision and academic governance reorganization while raising funds for scholarships and library technology. As Director of Doctoral Studies at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, IL, Dr. Duffett developed Hispanic and Korean language doctoral programs, quadrupling enrollments during his tenure. As Campus Pastor and Dean of Christian Faith and Life at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN, Dr. Duffett developed a youth ministry leadership degree program, directed international service learning programs, and secured grants to support student ministry initiatives.

Dr. Duffett’s long relationship with Eastern University began when his first pastor, an Eastern University graduate, encouraged him to pursue a career in ministry at his alma mater. Duffett reported, “I longed to attend Eastern, but I wanted to play football even more, and Eastern didn’t field a football team.” He landed instead at Bethel College where he played football for two years and found his future wife, Connie, a life-long American Baptist. Her two uncles, both Palmer Seminary of Eastern University graduates, married them.

A native of Youngstown, OH, Dr. Duffett attained his Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Greek from Bethel College, St. Paul, MN. His Master of Divinity degree was earned at Bethel Theological Seminary. His Master of Theological Studies degree in theology and communication hails from Princeton Theological Seminary, and his Ph.D. in organizational theory/management and historical theology was secured at the University of Iowa. Bob and his wife, Connie, have a son and a daughter, both in college.

Eastern University is a Christian university of the arts and sciences which integrates Faith, Reason and Justice for the 4,300 students in its undergraduate, graduate, professional, urban, international and Seminary programs. It's located at 1300 Eagle Road in St. Davids, PA, with other academic sites in Philadelphia and Harrisburg, PA. Various programs are offered at many sites throughout Pennsylvania and overseas. Eastern is comprised of five colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the Campolo College for Graduate and Professional Studies, the Templeton Honors College, Palmer Theological Seminary, and Esperanza College of Eastern University. Visit