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President Dr. Brent Ellis Receives Five-Year Extension at SAU

Brent Ellis

In a strong show of support, the Board of Trustees at Spring Arbor University (SAU) has extended the contract of President Dr. Brent Ellis for an additional five years, through 2026. During this term, Dr. Ellis will become the longest-tenured President in the nearly 150-year history of the University.

Dr. Ellis’ presidency at SAU began in 2013 and has been marked by significant growth initiatives, including facilities and academic offerings. During his tenure, Dr. Ellis has overseen substantial investment in academic spaces across a 110-acre campus including the construction of the Jaworski Clinical Simulation Center for Nursing programs, the Weatherwax Microbiology Laboratory, the Physical Therapy, and Sports Medicine Clinic, and the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering laboratories.

These state-of-the-art facilities meet the needs of the growing student populations in health fields including the substantial Nursing population at SAU. SAU has been a leader in Nursing programs for adult learners and under Dr. Ellis’ leadership added a traditional residential Nursing program. This addition along with over a dozen other new undergraduate majors highlighted by Mechanical and Electrical Engineering now comprise nearly 20% of the total incoming student enrollment.

With Dr. Ellis at the helm, Spring Arbor has experienced remarkable growth in its graduate student population. Total enrollment in graduate programs has grown over 75% and now encompasses over half of the total student population. Featuring offerings in Business, Communication, Education, Nursing and Social Sciences, the University continues to be a leader in Graduate education. Spring Arbor also recently launched the first of its planned doctoral offerings, the Doctor of Nursing Practice.

The University has invested more than $10M into new and expanded student facilities including the Kresge Student Life Center, the Jones Tennis Complex, the McDonald Athletic Center and the Walker Track and Field Complex. As a result, participation in Athletic programs has grown nearly 40% over the past 8 years and the University has won National Championships in Men’s Basketball (2019) and Women’s Soccer (2015,2017).

“We are preparing Christian leaders of the future,” said Dale E. Stephenson, Chairman of the Board of Trustees. “The Board is thankful to have a leader in Brent who can leverage his ministerial gifts, academic credentials and business acumen to continue pushing the University to new heights. His commitment to keeping Spring Arbor an intentional, unapologetic Christian university of excellence will further improve our fiscal health and long-term growth initiatives.”

Recognizing these strengths, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) renewed the accreditation of Spring Arbor University for another 10 years in December of 2017, passing Spring Arbor University in all 25 categories reviewed with no substantial findings. Other agencies including the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) have acknowledged the strength of SAU’s academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels during Dr. Ellis’ term.

In addition to the approval of accrediting agencies, the University recently received its second consecutive 3.0 stability ranking score from the US Department of Education. This score is the highest score an institution can receive relative to its overall financial health and comes after two years of receiving a score of 2.9.

During Dr. Ellis’ tenure, SAU has been ranked by The Economist as No. 1 in economic value among Christian universities in Michigan and No. 2 among all universities in Michigan. SAU was also recognized as providing the top Return on Investment (ROI) of all Christian institutions east of the Mississippi.

Donors have been chief among those who have responded favorably to the vision and leadership provided by Dr. Ellis, as every year of his Presidency has been among the top 10 giving years in the history of the institution. Over the last eight years, the University’s endowment has tripled. At the same time, the debt carried by the institution has been reduced by over 30%.

“The affirmation of our Board of Trustees reflected through this contract extension allows an opportunity for us to continue the great work accomplished by our university faculty, staff and administration over the last eight years,” said Dr. Ellis. “Spring Arbor University will continue our commitment to provide world-class education from a thoroughly Christian perspective. This combination produces unique graduates prepared for the demands of their chosen academic disciplines and grounded morally and spiritually to impact the world for Christ and His Kingdom. I am truly humbled to continue in my service to Spring Arbor University.”

Dr. Ellis and his wife, Christy, have three children: Charlie, Lainey and Joey. Dr. Ellis holds a Doctorate in higher education administration from Indiana University, a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, a Master’s Degree in ministry from Bethel College and a Bachelor’s Degree in pastoral ministry from Greenville College (now Greenville University). He is also an ordained minister and former church pastor.  Before becoming President, Dr. Ellis served at Spring Arbor University as Special Assistant to the President and then Vice President for University Advancement, where he oversaw university development, communications, alumni, external relations, the SAU Foundation and SAU radio.