Knopke Leaving Aquinas

January 20, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Harry Knopke leaves the Aquinas College presidency at the end of June, he’ll be ready for a new challenge.

In May, he’ll be among the first of the baby boomer generation to turn 60. That looming milestone has led to the realization for Knopke and his wife, Sheila, that they are facing some fundamental life choices.

“We probably have one major career move left where we can be happy and productive and contribute something and also be challenged by it,” he said.

Knopke said he has a number of options to consider but is not sure what his next career choice will be, or where.

A search for Knopke’s successor will begin in a few weeks, said Patrick Miles, co-chair of Aquinas’ board of trustees and partner at Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt and Howlett.

“We’re setting up the search process right now,” he said.

The search committee will be made up of representatives from the board, faculty, staff, alumni, students, community, diocese and the Dominican order, Miles said. The committee will develop a timeline, identify the characteristics that are wanted in the next president, and decide whether or not to hire a search firm.

Though it would be ideal to have someone in place by the time Knopke leaves in June, Miles said the board wants to make the right decision.

“We’re not going to rush the process just to fill the position,” he said. “We want the best person possible for Aquinas.”

Miles said he understands Knopke’s reasons for leaving.

“We think that the timing is good for a seamless transition,” he said. “He’s leaving the college on a solid position for growth and success. We’re grateful for his service, and we just wish him very well as he opens a new chapter in the next page of his life.”

During his tenure Knopke has established many relationships that have led to successful collaborations for the college, Miles said, such as the Performing Arts Center and the ChildDiscoveryCenter, a Grand Rapids charter school.

“Aquinas is such an asset to the Grand Rapids and West Michigan community; it was good that we had President Knopke making those connections,” Miles said. “He and his wife, Sheila, were wonderful ambassadors for the college.”

Knopke said he believes the relationships built during his tenure have been his best accomplishment. He said he is proud of the “collaborations that we have with businesses and other organizations, and the multi-faceted roles that we play in the community.

“The college is well-respected and is a fundamental part of the community.”

Knopke became president of AquinasCollege in 1997 after serving as the vice president for student affairs and professor of behavioral and community medicine at the University of Alabama.    

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