Ohio Wesleyan University announced Tuesday that Matthew P. vandenBerg, Ed.D., will become OWU’s 17th president when he takes office July 1. VandenBerg currently is the president of Clinton, South Carolina-based Presbyterian College.
VandenBerg will succeed President Rock Jones, Ph.D., who announced in April 2022 that he would retire at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year. When Jones completes his service in June, he will have spent 15 years at the Ohio Wesleyan helm.
“Ohio Wesleyan is poised for greatness,” said Nicholas E. Calio, chair of the Ohio Wesleyan Board of Trustees. “Under Rock’s leadership, the university has advanced in so many areas, and we are pleased to hand the baton to Matt. We are confident he will bring the vision and execution needed to help Ohio Wesleyan continue to advance and succeed in its critical mission of preparing future generations of engaged citizens and effective leaders.”
Kara J. Trott, J.D., chair of the Presidential Search Committee and vice chair of the OWU Board of Trustees, said, “More than 100 higher education leaders applied to become Ohio Wesleyan’s new president, and Matt vandenBerg quickly rose to the top of this very accomplished candidate pool.”
“Matt is an innovative, energetic leader who will help to build upon Ohio Wesleyan’s reputation and success, especially as the Columbus region works to transform itself into the Silicon Valley of the Midwest,” said Trott, a 1983 OWU graduate and the founder and board chair of Columbus-based Quantum Health Inc. “Matt has the drive and vision to ensure that Ohio Wesleyan is an integral part of this high-tech transformation. Both the Presidential Search Committee and the university’s Board of Trustees were unanimous in their selection of Matt to boldly and confidently lead Ohio Wesleyan into the future.”
VandenBerg said he is excited to become a Bishop and continue the progress Ohio Wesleyan has experienced under Jones’ leadership.
“Ohio Wesleyan is a distinctive, forward-looking, and appreciably student-centered institution that transforms lives,” vandenBerg said. “With initiatives like the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan and its faculty are reimagining the liberal arts for the needs of a new world and a new generation of students.
“I want to honor all that makes Ohio Wesleyan special as I work to build relationships, earn the trust of stakeholders, listen with care, and make values-based decisions that continue to differentiate and distinguish the university,” vandenBerg said. “This is an exciting time for OWU, especially with all that is happening in central Ohio, and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this accomplished university.”
Like Ohio Wesleyan, Presbyterian College is a private, residential, coeducational liberal arts school. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees and has a combined enrollment of 1,280.
During his tenure at Presbyterian College, vandenBerg has helped the school to define and distinguish itself in the higher education landscape. Highlights of his presidency include:
• Leading the college through an intensive and inclusive process to identify a distinctive new market position as “America’s Innovative Service College.”
• Launching the nation’s largest service-based entrepreneurship case competition for high school seniors.
• Establishing a flex plan that provides a pathway for students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in select majors in three years.
• Building a new Division of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the College, including an endowed vice presidency.
• Growing first-year student admission substantially in his first year.
• Leading the most productive fundraising year in the college’s history (from $9.9 million to $18.3 million) in his first full fiscal year.
• Securing the largest individual gift in the college’s history ($5 million) and several other seven-figure commitments.
Prior to joining Presbyterian College, vandenBerg served as the vice president for advancement and external relations and as the vice president for advancement at Alma College in Michigan, as the associate vice president for development at Albion College in Michigan, and as the assistant dean for development and alumni relations at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing (Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses).
Ohio Wesleyan Alumni Professor of Biological Science Amy L. Downing, Ph.D., a member of the Presidential Search Committee, said the faculty look forward to working with the new president to ensure students are ready to achieve their career and graduate school goals.
“We believe the experiences Matt brings to OWU and his approach to leadership will be an excellent fit for the Ohio Wesleyan community,” said Downing, who joined the faculty in 2001. “He understands the mission and value and culture of an institution like Ohio Wesleyan and shares the faculty’s commitment to transforming the lives of students through a liberal arts education. He is creative with bold ideas and a proven ability to execute them. The faculty are eager to partner with Matt as we envision the future directions for OWU.”
Student Cole A. Peterson, class of 2023, also a member of the Presidential Search Committee, said he has high expectations that vandenBerg will continue to work to provide Ohio Wesleyan students with top-notch educational and campus life experiences.
“I am very excited for Matt’s appointment as Ohio Wesleyan’s new president,” said Peterson, vice president of the Wesleyan Council on Student Affairs (WCSA), history major, and classics and economics double minor. “Our experience as students is at the forefront of his decision-making, and it’s clear that he cares about doing what’s best for both the student body and the university. As a senior, I’m sorry that I won’t be able to see his energy and passion firsthand.”
Trustees Chair Calio, a 1975 graduate and president and CEO of Airlines for America, said he, the trustees, and the entire OWU community are excited to welcome vandenBerg and his family to the Bishop family.
VandenBerg holds a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Public Affairs with concentrations in nonprofit management and public policy analysis from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs; and a Bachelor of Arts with a political science major and Spanish minor from Alma College in Michigan, where he graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
He and his wife, Melissa, have two children, Jackson, 10, and Sylvia, 6, and a 1-year-old golden retriever named Penny. Learn more at www.owu.edu/17.