Concordia president retiring in June to give successor ‘good shot’ at getting ahead of challenges facing higher education

Concordia University Wisconsin President Patrick T. Ferry

Back in 1997, Patrick T. Ferry was a young assistant professor in history at Concordia University Wisconsin when he applied to become the school’s eighth president.

And then, the unexpected happened.

He got the job.

“It was really quite a shock to all of us, myself included,” Ferry said Wednesday. “It seemed like a risky move to me. So far, we’ve hung in there.”

Ferry, 61, has announced he’ll retire in June and the school said it plans a national search for his successor.

“After prayerful reflection, I believe that the time is right for change — for me, and for the university,” Ferry said in an email to faculty and staff.

He added, “Privileged beyond all deserving, I give thanks to our Lord for the opportunity to be a part of such an extraordinary mission. … For Concordia the focus is appropriately fixed on the future.”

Ferry, an ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has been with the school since 1991.

“Patrick Ferry in so many ways is the living expression of Concordia University’s uncommon mission,” board Chairman Richard Laabs said in a statement. “The accomplishments of this institution during more than two decades of Pat’s visionary leadership are significant. He has been tireless in his calling and every Concordian is deeply grateful to him for his many years of exceptional leadership.”

In an interview, Ferry said it’s important for a new leadership team at Concordia “to get its sea legs ahead of the significant challenges for higher education.”

“Even before COVID-19, higher ed was facing challenges,” he said. “We can’t take too many of these gut punches. There are other ones coming down the pike. The demographic cliff is one, the declining number of college-age students over the next several years. The changing dynamic of delivery of learning is very significant. I want to give a person a good shot at getting ahead of that.”

During his tenure, Ferry presided over the addition of significant programs while also enhancing the Mequon campus. He also was involved with a merger that created Concordia’s sister campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ferry said he remains intensely focused on helping students navigate their college journeys.

Ferry said when he first arrived at Concordia, “I was about the age of an older brother. And now I’m interacting with students whose parents were students when I started.”

He plans to remain in the area. His wife, Tamara Ferry, is Concordia’s executive director of institutional effectiveness.

“It has been truly a great privilege to work in this region, along with other great college and university leaders,” he said.