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A new president for a new era at Marylhurst

Judith Johansen takes the reins at local college
by: VERN UYETAKE, Judith Johansen is off to an enjoyable start as Marylhurst president.

On Judith Johansen's very first day as president of Marylhurst University, she found a beautifully renovated campus awaiting her arrival and an alumni golf tournament that raised a record-setting $100,000.

Certainly, not every day can be expected to duplicate that auspicious debut, but Johansen anticipates plenty of good times ahead. While her predecessor Nancy Wilgenbusch presided over dramatic changes in her 24-year tenure, including the huge campus makeover, Johansen intends to keep the momentum going.

'Nancy did a fantastic job of bringing Marylhurst to where it is today,' Johansen said. 'The beautiful campus, the programs, the relevancy to our students. This is not a turn-around operation. Instead, it's a launching pad.

'I'm looking forward to charting what that will be.'

Johansen brought a most impressive business resume to the school situtated in Lake Oswego next to West Linn, most recently as president and CEO of PacifiCorp, a six-state electric utility company with more than 6,600 employees.

'I was not looking for a new job,' said Johansen, who began her duties in July. 'What I found at Marylhurst was a very unique and serendipitous opportunity. It was a combination of what Marylhurst is - its history and heritage and students served - with my great fondness and admiration for Nancy Wilgenbusch.

'Once I came on campus and met the people, the faculty, the trustees and the students, I knew I wanted to be here.'

While Johansen's experience is impressive, there is one noticeable gap: She has held no previous position in academia.

However, she has served as president of the board of trustees for the Lewis and Clark College Law School, and she believes her skills as a business leader will translate over into being a leader of a university.

'Leadership is leadership,' Johansen said. 'I have managed and led different organizations, and there's not that many differences between a business and an academic institution. People are people. I hope to bring the leadership skills I have developed to Marylhurst.'

While Johansen will be doing lots of meeting and greeting over the next few months, she will also be working on the plan that will launch the transition to her era at Marylhurst.

'We'll be having a strategic planning process that will culminate in mid winter,' Johansen said. 'It will include our faculty, Sisters of the Holy Names, and possibly our major donors and business leaders of the community.

'To have a robust vision you must be outwardly and inwardly focused. That requires a large group of people.'

While months away from presenting her vision for the school, Johansen said, 'I do have some notions. But first I want people to buy into them. I have some ideas about programs and structures that I want our faculty to consider.'

After just a few months on the job, Johansen is still receiving an education about being president of Marylhurst, and she sees Wilgenbusch several times a week.

'If you know Nancy Wilgenbusch, you know Marylhurst,' Johansen said.

Johansen is already being captivated by the 'spirit' of Marylhurst and its being 'holy ground.'

Of course, she attributes that to the founders of Marylhurst, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.

'The sisters brought special values to this school,' Johansen said. 'Respect for individuals and equalizing opportunities through education.

'That is the fabric they wove, and it has held together to this very day.'

The induction of Johansen as president will take place on Oct. 19.