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Steven C. Bahls

Eighth president of Augustana College, 2003-2022

Steven C. Bahls is the eighth president of Augustana College. He joined the college in the summer of 2003 and was installed as president in October of that year. Among the major developments on campus since then:

• Faculty, staff and students worked together on two strategic plans — first Authentically Augustana: A Strategic Plan for a Premier Liberal Arts College and now Augustana 2020: Our Path Forward.

• Major campus improvements have included the building of Duane R. Swanson Commons; the Dorothy Parkander Residence Center, the Murry and Cindy Gerber Center for Student Life, John and Mary Thorson-Lucken Field, the Austin E. Knowlton Outdoor Athletic Complex, and the Kim and Donna Brunner Theatre Center. In addition, substantial renovations have been completed to Old Main, Emmy Evald Hall and the Thomas Tredway Library.

Augie Choice, a unique grant providing all students up to $2,000 to work with faculty mentors on research projects, pursue international study or engage in an internship, was introduced.

• More than half (54 percent) of students now have a meaningful international experience by the time of their graduation.

• Approximately one-third of Augustana students are either U.S.-born persons of color or international students, representing the most diverse student body in the college’s history.

• New programs have been added in Africana studies, creative writing, engineering physics, ethics, graphic design, international business, journalism, music composition, neuroscience, and data analytics; faculty leaders have launched the Augustana Center for Polar Studies, the Upper Mississippi Studies Center, and the Presidential Center for Faith and Learning.

• Women’s and men’s lacrosse, men’s volleyball, and women’s bowling have all been added to the college’s NCAA Division III athletic program, and Augustana has maintained its ranking as a leading producer of Academic All-Americans.

• A conversation led by Campus Ministries resulted in the Five Faith Commitments of Augustana College, an expression of what it means to be a church-related college in the 21st century.

• The college has raised more than $152 million as part of a comprehensive campaign, enabling Augustana to provide additional funds for scholarships, programming and enhancing buildings.

• Augustana’s enrollment has grown by almost 10 percent, and the faculty has grown by more than 13 percent.

President Bahls has written extensively about a wide range of higher education topics, from shared governance to teaching financial literacy. His writings have been published in numerous journals such as Trusteeship, Huffington Post, Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Intersections — the Journal of Lutheran Higher Education. He is the author of the Association of Governing Board’s "Shared Governance in Times of Change: A Practical Guide for Universities and Colleges." He recently has published two book chapters, “From Shared Governance to Shared Accountability” (SUNY Press) and “Liberal Arts Colleges: Building the Capacity to Thrive” (Peter Lang Publishing).

He has served on the boards of national higher education organizations including the Council of Independent Colleges and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and he currently chairs the board of the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America and the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities. He also served on the NCAA Division III Presidents' Advisory Council, and was an invited member of President Barack Obama’s White House Summit on Higher Education.

A recognized scholar in the area of business law and agricultural law, President Bahls has also written hundreds of articles in both scholarly publications and magazines such as Entrepreneur, Independent Banker and Nation's Business. His writings about legal issues have been cited by 150 scholarly law journals, including the Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Columbia law reviews, and have been cited in reported court opinions in seven states.

President Bahls is a frequent speaker on campus, and he holds open office hours, often in Brew by the Slough, the coffee house in Augustana’s Center for Student Life. Most evenings and weekends, you’ll find him at Augustana’s music, cultural and athletic events.

Prior to joining Augustana College, he was dean at Capital University Law School, the only law school in the nation affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Prior to joining Capital’s law program, he served as associate dean and professor at the University of Montana School of Law. From 1979 through 1985, he practiced corporate law with the Milwaukee firm of Frisch, Dudek and Slattery. He is a CPA and a lawyer.

He is active as a leader in his community. Since coming to the Quad Cities, he has been chair of the executive board of the Illowa Council of Boy Scouts of America, the board of the Putnam Museum of Natural Science, and completed two terms as president of the board of the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce, in which role he helped lead efforts to create the unified (Illinois and Iowa) Quad City Chamber. He is chair of the Genesis Health System board, and has served on the boards of directors of the United Way of the Quad Cities, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Association, and the Quad Cities Cultural Trust. He is a tri-chair of Q2030, the regional plan for building the economic and cultural vitality of the Quad Cities as a cool, creative, connected and prosperous community.

Steven Bahls was born in Des Moines in 1954. He and his wife, Jane, were married in 1977. Jane Easter Bahls is a graduate of Cornell College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. She had a 22-year career as a freelance writer after eight years as a college religion and philosophy instructor. Jane is active in the life of Augustana and in the community, including Operation Read, Churches United, Ballet Quad Cities and Family Resources. Jane and Steve are members of Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Moline.

Steve and Jane have three children: Daniel, a Williams College and Boston University Law School graduate, is a lawyer in Massachusetts; Timothy, a graduate of Middlebury College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School, is a computer scientist in Wisconsin; and Angela, an Augustana alumna, is a graduate of the speech language pathology program at the University of Arizona, and is now practicing in Indiana. Steve and Jane also are the proud grandparents of five grandchildren.

Click here to see President Bahls' picks for the best hiking and cross country ski trails in the United States.

The President's family reflects on the liberal arts