President Chris Kimball will step down after leading Cal Lutheran for 12 years


Photo contributed by Cal Lutheran Media Relations

Grace Wawrin, Sports Editor

After serving as president of California Lutheran University for 12 years, President Chris Kimball will be stepping down at the end of the academic year. The news that he would not be extending his contract with the Board of Regents was announced to the Cal Lutheran community via email on Tuesday, Oct. 15.

“After 12 years as president, I think it is time for a change and for someone with a fresh perspective to lead Cal Lutheran into its very bright future,” Kimball said in the email. Kimball plans to return to the classroom and focus on teaching after almost 20 years in leadership positions on campus.

“I really think his time as president is gonna be remembered as the greatest growth period of this institution. This institution has grown in size, we’ve expanded so many programs, so many facilities. It’s just amazing the things that have happened while he has been president,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson said.

During Kimball’s tenure as president, Cal Lutheran has expanded its campus with Ullman Commons, William Rolland Art Center, William Rolland Stadium and the Swenson Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences, Neilson said. The Swenson Science Center is currently under construction. Additionally, the university has renovated buildings such as the Student Union and began hosting the Los Angeles Rams at their practice facility.

Despite the many physical transformations to Cal Lutheran in the past decade, Kimball has always remained focused on the students, Neilson said.

“I think he has been very much a student-oriented president and that is unusual… I think he remembered always that you don’t have a university if you don’t have students, and it’s the students that it’s about,” said Joan Griffin, an English professor and the former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Kimball has served as an advisor to the first-year experience class, advised students through graduation and taught a class on the history of baseball while serving as president, according to Griffin and Neilson.

“I think in his heart, he still was a faculty member, and so I think that collegiality is gonna be something that people will relate [and] remember about him,” Griffin said.

Kimball plans to take a sabbatical for the 2020-2021 academic year and return to teaching at Cal Lutheran the following year, Neilson said.

“12 years is a long time to be president, and the fact that if he is returning to the classroom that makes other sense to me. That is something I think he’s never lost enthusiasm,” Griffin said. 

Neilson said the search for his replacement will begin with the hiring of a search consultant who will recruit candidates nationwide who qualify for the position. The consultant will get input on what qualities the Board of Regents and faculty members would like to see in a new president, then a search committee is formed, Neilson said.

“The search committee will be made of people who represent different groups on campus led by someone from the Board of Regents. And then the search committee does a lot of the work of going through applications, and then they make recommendations and then the Board of Regents makes the final decision,” Neilson said.

In his email, Kimball said more information about the replacement process will be provided soon by Board of Regents Chair Susan Lundeen-Smuck.

“I think a lot of the things that Chris [Kimball] has brought us we want to continue. Someone who is committed to the mission of this institution, someone who is passionate about the students that we serve, someone who has integrity and a great deal of experience that they can bring to the table,” Neilson said.