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MSUM President Anne Blackhurst to retire in 2023 and try on different colors

Anne Blackhurst has served as president of Minnesota State University Moorhead since 2014.

Blackhurst MSUM.jpg
Anne Blackhurst, president of Minnesota State University Moorhead, talks about the Vision 2020 fundraising campaign for the university.
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MOORHEAD — At its peak, Anne Blackhurst's wardrobe contained 45 red blazers to ensure she always had one to wear on the job as president of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Though Blackhurst said she'll always be "a Dragon," she's whittling that number down as she eyes retirement next year.

"I will look forward to experiencing other colors in the color spectrum, for sure," Blackhurst said with a laugh, during an interview with The Forum.

Blackhurst, 61, who's served eight years as MSUM president, announced on Tuesday, Aug. 16, that she intends to step down on June 30, 2023.

Under the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, she was at a point where she'd either announce intentions to accept another three-year contract at the end of next year, or intentions to retire.

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"I think MSUM deserves an energetic and engaged and passionate leader and although I still feel passionate about the university ... I don't know if I can be the president the university deserves for four more years," Blackhurst said.

It has also been a difficult year personally for Blackhurst, whose husband, Joe Walsh, died in May after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.

His celebration of life ceremony wasn't held until last week, Blackhurst said, to allow time for family to make plans to attend.

Blackhurst said a "whole host of disruptions" have affected higher education even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Demographic, technological, social and political changes have all resulted in declining enrollment, she said, at a time when state support for public institutions is declining, making for a "very challenging" budgetary situation.

She said she doesn't plan to "coast" in these final months, but that the most important thing she can do is helping the transition to the next leader.

Blackhurst's tenure at MSUM has been marked by little, if any, controversy, for which she said she's grateful, especially with social media and a general climate where people are "quick to be outraged."

"Before you know it, you're embroiled in a controversy that even if it started for some small reason, has taken on a life of its own and you just can't recover from it," she said.

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Blackhurst was named the university’s 11th president in 2014 after a national search, stepping into that role after three years of serving as MSUM’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra said Blackhurst has provided strong leadership and prepared the university well to navigate challenging times, including the pandemic.

Malhotra cited intensive academic programming reviews, expansion in graduate programs and enrollments and a $60 million capital campaign as some of the accomplishments under Blackhurst's leadership.

“Clearly, she has put MSUM on a sustainable path both programmatically and financially. She will leave behind a lasting legacy and a strong forward-looking institutional momentum,” Malhotra said in a statement.

Blackhurst, known as President Anne on campus, said she doesn't foresee another job in higher education once she retires.

She has a son and two grandkids in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she plans to spend more time, and she expects to move to the Pacific Northwest where her dad and siblings are.

Her retirement will be the same as Concordia College President William Craft, who announced in December that he is set to retire on June 30, 2023.

The Minnesota State Chancellor’s Office will begin a national search early this fall with a goal of identifying Blackhurst's successor in early spring.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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