Because he’d only been on job for two of his three-year contract, the announcement seemed odd. So fellow MPR reporter Tim Post and I wondered:
Was he asked to leave?
Was there strife or trouble on campus that prompted his resignation?
Does he have personal or criminal problems that played a role?
(Distasteful questions, of course, but it’s something we have to ask when these things happen.)
St. John’s spokesman Michael Hemmesch said Koopman was away, but told us none of those were the case.
“President Koopmann felt that this was the best decision for his long term well-being.”
The president gave no indication prior to this week’s board meeting that he was considering resigning, Hemmesch said.
The 64-year old Koopman graduated from St. John’s in 1968, served as a professor of music at the college since 1978 and was ordained as a priest in 1981.
Although he was a longtime member of the music faculty, he had no heavy-duty administrative experience before taking on the presidency. But Hemmesch said his resume — with decades spent in the monastic community, chairmanship of the music department and stint as division head (comparable to a dean position) — was similar to those of previous presidents.
He told me:
“His appointment wasn’t odd, or a surprise.”
All 12 of St. John’s presidents have been members of the St. John’s Abbey monastic community, and so far that policy hasn’t changed.
But considering the shrinking pool of presidential material nationwide, will it? After all, in March the University of St. Thomas announced it would allow non-priests to become president — an acknowledgment of the times.
Hemmesch said he wasn’t sure, and wasn’t aware of any talks among trustees that they might have to look outside the clergy.
(That’s something I’d like to ask trustees about.)