Dempsey assumes role as university’s vice president

Zach Bailey

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Winona State’s new vice president of advancement and executive director of the Winona State Foundation, Ron Dempsey, speaks at his advancement reception Thursday, Jan. 28. (Photo by Jacob Striker)

Winona State’s new vice president of advancement and executive director of the Winona State Foundation, Ron Dempsey, speaks at his advancement reception Thursday, Jan. 28. (Photo by Jacob Striker)

Zach Bailey / Winonan

A large crowd of community members, Winona State University faculty, community members and the mayor of Winona, joined to welcome Ron Dempsey, the new vice president of advancement and executive director of the Winona State Foundation. The gathering was held in the Slaggie Family Lobby of the Winona Historical Society Thursday, Jan. 28.

“We are all really excited to have Ron Dempsey join us here at Winona State,” Scott Olson, Winona State president, said.

The previous vice president, Ernie Hughes, was reassigned in late January of 2015 because he “did not fit into Winona State’s message,” as stated by Olson and the university. Hughes’ reassignment focused on enrollment strategies.

In the year following Hughes’ reassignment, previous vice president Gary Evans temporarily took over the position.

When the search for a permanent vice president began, Dempsey was a promising candidate right out of the gate.

“[Dempsey] captured our attention right away, and we know he will fit in great with the rest of the Winona State community,” Olson said.

Before Winona State was even on the radar for Dempsey, he served various positions in schools across the southeast. His resume includes stints as the vice president for advancement and university development at Southern Polytechnic State University, in Marietta, Ga., preceded by jobs such as vice president for institutional advancement at Shorter University, Rome, Ga., associate provost for academic services at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., the director of foundation and corporate relations and associate dean of academic affairs at Presbyterian College, in Clinton, S.C. and also as director of institutional research at Jefferson Community College, in Louisville, Ky.

Dempsey’s credentials include a Doctorate in Philosophy (sociology of religion), and he is currently working on a Doctorate of Philosophy (sociology of science and technology).

“My degree isn’t directly related to my to my job as vice president. These are mostly for credentials,” Dempsey said, jokingly, “I will be continuing research in my field, however, and hope to produce more in the coming years.”

Dempsey said he has always been attracted to sociology and is working on using his knowledge in the field to do as much as he can to advance Winona State.

Dempsey first discovered Winona State’s employment opportunity through an online national publication, where he found the university was in need of a new vice president. Dempsey said he noticed how unique the job was and decided he was up to the challenge.

But the search process began with many candidates. A search committee including students, faculty, people representing many different units at Winona State, as well as community members was then formed to help find the perfect choice for Winona State’s next vice president.

“[The committee] took a first pass through the whole pool, then narrowed it down a little, did some phone interviews, narrowed it down more and then they ended up with three candidates that they had come to Winona and do an in-person interview,” Olson said.

Once hired, Dempsey knew the challenge was going to be just the right fit.

Winona State’s new vice president Ron Dempsey mingles with community members and Winona State faculty at the advancement reception Thursday, Jan. 28 at the Winona Historical Society. (Photo by Jacob Striker)

Winona State’s new vice president Ron Dempsey mingles with community members and Winona State faculty at the advancement reception Thursday, Jan. 28 at the Winona Historical Society. (Photo by Jacob Striker)

“I am very excited about the opportunity that I have received,” Dempsey said, “Winona State has a national reputation and is a nice sized school.”

Dempsey went on to praise Winona State’s “loyal following” of students, faculty and staff, and Winona State alumni, and how committed and involved they are with the university.

Dempsey’s plans as vice president include launching a new capital campaign, and he has hopes to improve the connection with Winona State alumni.

“We have a nice amount of alumni involved now, but we are always looking for more ways to get them involved,” Dempsey said.

After a quick introduction by Olson, Dempsey took the stage at the packed reception and spoke about his new position in the Winona State community.

“I feel like I’m at a wedding reception,” Dempsey said with a laugh, “I’m coming up here to talk, then I walk around speaking with everyone the rest of the time.”

Dempsey then spoke of how one of the reasons he was attracted to Winona was because of its size. Dempsey grew up in the small town of Rome, Ga., and Dempsey said the size similarity between Winona and his hometown gave Winona State a familiar feeling to him. Dempsey also said Winona State’s tagline, “A community of learners, improving our world,” drew his attention toward the school.

As vice president, Dempsey will embrace challenges and strive to improve Winona State and its connections with alumni. For Dempsey, he could not get started soon enough.

He joked, “I had even started doing work two days before I was supposed to.”