Chuck’s Major Accomplishments
raised toward our $15m community goal.
3 to PhD®
Concordia’s groundbreaking 3 to PhD® program is a unique partnership between Portland Public Schools, Trillium Family Services, and Concordia University – a $48.5 million investment in northeast Portland designed to care for the whole child.
“Homeless children are struggling at the school right across the street from us – how can we not get involved? We want healthier, safer, more successful students, and 3 to PhD® will give these local kids a real chance for success. For me, it’s about finding out what is needed, then doing what it takes to address the problems and barriers that are keeping these kids from reaching their full potential.”
Student enrollment @ Concordia PDX.
Under President Schlimpert’s 33-year tenure, enrollment has risen from 300 in 1983 to nearly 7,500 today.
“We want enrollment to make sense and be at healthy, sustainable levels – not just increasing our numbers for the sake of being bigger. I believe there are many more students who can benefit from a Concordia University education, whether they are on our campus or enrolled in our online programs. Student success is always the main priority. Every student is unique and we need to continue to tap into that.”
Library cards given to our Concordia neighbors
Portland Campus Expansion
Concordia’s growth on campus during Schlimpert’s time as president includes the expansion of Luther Hall, a 245-bed residence hall, George R. White Library & Learning Center, Concordia University Throw Center, Concordia Place Apartments, a trio of new lab spaces, the Hilken Community Stadium, and the Columbia River Campus.
“I’m not a buildings guy, that’s not my legacy. I’m more interested in being connected to people and helping create a new generation of graduates ready to go into their communities and serve. But as a small land-locked campus, we finally hit the point where our success had outstripped our capabilities. That said, every one of the projects we’ve built has something to do with the community. At the stadium, for example, community groups use the field more than 50% of the time — and community support is the only reason the field has lights. Since opening the library, we have given out more than 3,000 library cards to families in the neighborhood and around our area. And we are in the process of raising more than $15 million for our 3 to PhD® initiative and a new Faubion/Concordia University building. It’s a shared investment, with and for the community.”
Law school in Boise
Law School in Boise
In 2012, Concordia University School of Law opened in Boise, Idaho — one of the only state capitals in the country without a three-year law school. Concordia has a long-time connection to Boise and the Treasure Valley, dating back to Lutheran farmers in the area supplying the Portland campus with food for student meals.
“The law school was the culmination of the hard work of a lot of people, both in Portland and in Idaho. The idea was to create a different kind of law school that shaped a different kind of lawyer— lawyers with a true penchant for making other peoples’ lives better. Lawyers have the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of those they serve. It’s a whole attitude, a philosophy of service. That’s the kind of lawyer we’re helping produce – one who takes this dedication to serve into every client relationship.”
The year was 1983. President Reagan signed a bill establishing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a federal holiday. Astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Cabbage Patch Dolls were introduced and the first minivan hit the road. That same year, Dr. Charles Schlimpert signed on as president of Concordia University, a small, private Lutheran school in a quiet northeast Portland neighborhood with a handful of undergraduate degrees and a student body that fit inside a modest auditorium.
Fast-forward to 2016. Concordia now boasts nearly 7,500 students – with roughly 2,000 on campus and another 5,500 online. Students can choose from more than 25 majors, as well as nine different graduate programs – including a juris doctorate from our law school in Boise. And while times have changed and education has evolved, one thing at Concordia remains constant: the steadfast leadership of President Chuck Schlimpert, the longest-standing university president in Oregon.
A presidential assessment
So how does President Schlimpert view the Concordia University of today? “If you’re a student looking to learn how to change the world, this is the place to be,” he says with his trademark enthusiasm. “At Concordia, you are needed. We need people who can lead, people who can make a difference.”
“Students who are attracted to the idea of transformational leadership and students who recognize that the world needs people who can make a difference are the students who will choose Concordia University,” he continued. “Everyone here is interested in service – giving back, helping others, bettering the community. That’s what Concordia is all about.”
Under President Schlimpert’s direction, this dedication to service permeates every aspect of the Concordia Experience. Students volunteer with countless local and national nonprofits – from Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics to the Concordia Backpack Lunch Program, which provides weekend lunches to neighborhood kids who might otherwise go without. Yearly alternative spring break trips to Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Haiti allow students to engage in immersive service experiences outside of the campus community and learn more about social issues affecting different communities around the country and around the world. There are even degree-specific service opportunities for students to use their expertise for community support. Accounting students, for example, help low-income neighbors file their taxes each spring.
It is because of his three decades of dedication to creating a campus environment conducive to service that President Schlimpert was recently recognized as the recipient of the 2016 ALDE Outstanding Executive Award – a prestigious national honor bestowed upon a deserving leader who serves the Lutheran church through deed and example.
Charles “Chuck” Schlimpert grew up in a household in which both parents worked — his mother as a nurse and his father as a Lutheran teacher and principal. He met his future wife, Patti, while they were in high school. He graduated from Concordia College (now Concordia University) in Chicago. Following graduation, he headed across the country to become a founding faculty member at Orange Lutheran High School in Southern California, where he eventually became the principal. The school he helped create is now the largest Lutheran high school in the country.
And when asked how he ended up at Concordia University in Portland, President Schlimpert replies with a smile, “By accident.”
This “accident” was particularly fortuitous for Concordia, as President Schlimpert took the helm at a key time in the school’s development. “Concordia University was in the position where they wanted to grow up. It had been a two-year school for years, and it had just become a four-year school in 1980. In 1983, the search team came to me and I’ve been here ever since.”
As President Schlimpert tells the story, “I was thrown into the deep end of the pool during a time of massive transition. I had to quickly figure out what was important and what had to be done.” Lessons learned growing Orange Lutheran High School translated well to Concordia. “You can’t do it all. So you build a team and let them do what they do best. The administration, the faculty, the staff, and the volunteers who surround and support us are all interested in the same thing, and that’s creating servant leadership.”
“My job is to referee the team of leaders we’ve assembled – enabling, empowering, helping, and holding them accountable.”
Learning to serve
Taking Concordia to the next level meant getting to the heart of what Concordia is – and the role it plays in the lives of its students. “Over the years, we’ve become a pretty good college. But how do we become a great college?” That’s when President Schlimpert had his “a-ha” moment. “It’s not about being a great school, it’s about building a great community. We have to think first about those we serve. Our job is to train our graduates to serve others, to give them the opportunities to do that and embrace that while they’re here – moving from an internal to external focus. That’s what makes us Concordia.”
“Dive in, don’t stay on the sidelines” is his advice to anyone thinking about making Concordia their college home. “We’ve built our curriculum around experience – getting out of the classroom and into the real world. Our students are on the street, in the community, and engaged from their first day of school on. Attending Concordia means putting in a huge number of service hours. We want each student to discover ‘do I really want to be a nurse or teacher or accountant?’ and learn what it takes to serve. This is the core of who we are as a Christian university.”
Historically, higher education has been perceived as elite and out of reach. As President Schlimpert sees it, this is a new day and “our job is to make it more affordable. One way we do that – and it’s another example of building a better community – is to reach out to first-generation students and create a world-class student experience, a learning environment where they can thrive.”
The reluctant recipient
The ALDE Awards for Excellence in Philanthropy recognize those who go above and beyond in answering God’s call to serve others. There are eight different categories each year. This past February in Chicago, the Outstanding Executive Award, honoring a deserving CEO or president who serves the Lutheran church through deed and example, was given to President Schlimpert.
While he’s grateful for the award – and even more so for the recognition it brings Concordia University in Portland – President Schlimpert insists it’s never been just about him. “It’s not about me being a leader as much as it is for us putting all the pieces together to run a successful university and create a model for success. To me, this award recognizes the efforts of the whole team and everyone who works on behalf of the university.”
“What’s good for the community is good for Concordia”
Under President Schlimpert’s leadership, community engagement is the core of who Concordia is as a Christian/Lutheran university. “We want people to attend school here and teach here and work here because Concordia is the place they want to be because of the focus on service,” he says. “We don’t build a great community by doing it for people, but by doing it with people. We’re all partners, working together.”
For President Schlimpert, community engagement is all about helping people succeed and helping people pursue their dreams. “Concordia provides the opportunity for people to come together and do great things.” The way he sees it, Concordia is, by design, a catalyst, a neighborhood front porch, a welcoming place where students can explore their passion and then take that passion out into the world and do good. Or, as President Schlimpert has been quoted saying many times, “What’s good for the community is good for Concordia.”
So what’s next for this intrepid leader – only the fourth president in Concordia’s 110-year history? If past actions are any indication, it’s clear that whatever lies ahead will all be for the good of the students and the community. Construction is well underway for the new Faubion/Concordia University facility, home to the 3 to PhD® program, with an opening planned for the start of the 2017 school year. New apartments designed specifically for grad students, married students, and students at least 21 years old will open later this summer. More programs are going online, including a new accelerated RN to BSN nursing program. The school is entering its final year of transition to NCAA Division II for athletics. And the Concordia Foundation continues to grow its endowment while fundraising for scholarships and other university programs. In short, Concordia University wouldn’t be what it is today without the vision and leadership of Dr. Charles Schlimpert.