On May 8th, Normandale faculty, staff, students and community members gathered to celebrate the presidency of Joe Opatz. Last summer, Opatz announced he would retire at the end of his contract on Aug. 1, 2014, to pursue new interests and personal opportunities.
At the ceremony, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar sent a message that one of her staff members read aloud congratulating Opatz for the great accomplishments in his time at Normandale.
MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone also attended and talked about the many great things Normandale had accomplished during Opatz's presidency.
“Normandale Community College has grown into one of the strongest community colleges in the nation,” he noted.
“That is work you have all done together, and work that has come under Joe's leadership the last seven years. When he began as president, everyone was excited about the new levels of excellence that would occur at Normandale, and nobody has been disappointed. I don't think anyone could have imagined all that has been accomplished over the last seven years.
"Normandale is really not just one of the jewels of our crown at MnSCU, but one of the crown jewels of higher education nationally. That has come under the leadership of Joe Opatz, and we thank him for the great job he has done.”
The event also featured a musical tribute to Opatz sung by Dean of Student Services Cappy Breuer and Music Instructor Marc Jaros (with backup singers, including current and past Minnesota State College Faculty (MSCF) Presidents Erik Loge, Scott
Magnuson-Martinson, David Rayson, Carina Belinco, Tom Sundquist and Dan Creed). Dean of Humanities Jeff Judge and Music Instructors Aaron Moe, William Munoz, and Rob Gronemann provided the musical accompaniment.
Following a video presentation, the President's Cabinet presented Opatz with two gifts. One was an inlaid wooden box with a design of the college, which was made by Math Instructor Kevin Lee, using Normandale's 3-D Printer. The other gift was an artistic piece done by Alexander Tylevich, who designed the sculptures that are displayed in the Partnership Center.
Opatz took over as the fourth president of Normandale on July 30, 2007. During his time as president, he oversaw a major transformation of the campus that included approximately $65 million in renovations and new construction projects. The projects included the addition of the Parking Ramp and the Partnership Center, which will increase community business partnerships and four-year degree opportunities at the college. There were also renovations of the Activities Building and Kopp Student Center, and relocation and growth of the Tutoring Center.
Enrollment grew by 14 percent during Opatz's time at Normandale, a boost that also saw corresponding increases in student access to advising and tutoring.
Opatz will be succeeded by Dr. Joyce Ester on Aug. 2, 2014.