Edgewood College’s Scott Flanagan selected as next president

“What an exciting day today is!” remarked Scott Flanagan, executive vice president at Edgewood College, after being announced as the school’s seventh president, succeeding Dan Carey, who retires in August. In fact, Flanagan, 43, who’s been at Edgewood for the past 16 years, could hardly contain himself.

Speaking a mile a minute, the married father of two said he had been urged to apply before, when Carey was first hired 10 years ago, but he knew the timing wasn’t right. There would be a next time though, he reasoned, and with the encouragement of Carey, he decided to do all he could to prepare for that day, whenever it came.

“When I saw the search materials and the kind of person they were looking for, I thought, hey, I’ve been doing this all along.” — Scott Flanagan

“I decided I would do what I could control. I could control having a terminal degree, seek out different experiences, and have success,” he said.

He added a Ph.D. in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania to his résumé, which included a master’s degree from the University of St. Francis in Indiana and an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison in political science. Meanwhile, his responsibilities at Edgewood College increased, as he became dean of admissions and financial aid, vice president of planning and enrollment, and interim CFO. He also taught a doctoral course in higher education finance.

Last fall, after Carey announced he’d be retiring in 2014, Flanagan recognized the opportunity in front of him but cautiously waited to act until the Board of Trustees published its prospectus outlining its criteria. “When I saw the search materials and the kind of person they were looking for, I thought, hey, I’ve been doing this all along.” He threw his hat in the ring.

Competition was stiff. Finalists included Elizabeth Burmaster, the current president of Nicolet College in Rhinelander and former Wisconsin state superintendent of public instruction, and Robert Pastoor, vice president for student life at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio.

“At the end of the search, it became clear that Dr. Flanagan is the best prepared and the best qualified to step into that critical leadership position,” said Jan Eddy, chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

“I am deeply grateful for the faith the board and this community have placed in me to lead Edgewood College,” Flanagan responded.

Basketball roots

Originally from Weyauwega, Wis., Flanagan, the son of two teachers, never thought he’d one day become a college president. “I was young. I was going to be a college basketball coach!” he said. In fact, he was a student-manager under former UW-Madison basketball coach Steve Yoder, and his dream continued as an assistant coach at the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he also earned an MBA and attained a 4.0 GPA.

But the winds of change took him beyond the basketball court and into higher education. By 1998, Flanagan had served as Saint Francis’ director of admissions, director of athletics, and assistant vice president for enrollment services.

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Now, he’ll be working with Carey on transitioning to Edgewood College’s top job and focusing in large part on fundraising, strategic planning, budgeting, and working with the board. “What an opportunity, to learn from Dan, who’s been a successful college president for 20 years,” Flanagan said. “I’ve been so fortunate to have such support.”

His challenge, he knows, will be to adapt to a quickly changing higher education environment. “We have to look at all kinds of educational models to help us make the pivot from what higher education has been historically to what it will become. I don’t have the end of that sentence yet,” he acknowledged, but he knows it will take an effective leader and communicator to meld and change as necessary. He leads by listening and will work to build relationships, problem solve, and be a spokesperson in the community.

And it all starts on Aug. 4, Flanagan’s first week in the new role. “I’m not starting from scratch, but by the same token, this is a great opportunity to look at Edgewood with fresh eyes.” With the aid of Carey, Flanagan will be learning and listening a lot in the next few months, and laying the groundwork for students and staff so when they return in mid-August, there will be no doubt that the future of Edgewood College, and the Scott Flanagan chapter, has begun.

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