Beth Dinndorf will begin her tenure as the 18th president of Columbia College on July 1, and will reside in Maxwell House with her husband Ted O'Connell. They are traveling from Minnesota to move in during the first week of June, and Dinndorf will take advantage of opportunities to meet with President Whitson, who retires June 30, as well as Dinndorf's campus transition team. She will attend the Annual S.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church in June and several meet-and-greet events to be hosted around South Carolina for alumnae and friends of Columbia College throughout the summer.
Dinndorf served previously in a variety of roles with the Board of Trustees of the College of Saint Benedict, a nationally ranked liberal arts college for women with over 2,000 students in St. Joseph, MN. She has chaired the board since 2010, and serves on board committees dealing with finance, investment, academic affairs, audit, trusteeship and resource development. She also serves on the presidential search committee of Saint John’s University, a nationally ranked men’s liberal arts college affiliated with Saint Benedict.
She is the former senior vice president and manager of student banking services at U.S. Bank in St. Paul, MN. Before that, she was senior vice president and national sales manager of education financial services at Wells Fargo Bank in Sioux Falls, SD.
Columbia attorney Becky Laffitte, trustee and chairwoman of the search committee, described the new president in these terms: “Intelligent, visionary, charismatic, committed, hard-working, spiritual, poised and graceful.”
“I think what intrigued me is that she is not the traditional candidate that one might expect,” Laffitte added. “After reviewing her many accomplishments, not only in the banking world but at College of Saint Benedict, and hearing from those individuals with whom she has worked, I am confident she will elevate Columbia College to the next level. That means increasing academic excellence, and attracting and retaining highly-motivated students who will grow as leaders through a liberal-arts education.”
“She impressed me as a polished executive who has experience in financial matters,” said trustee board chairman Lex Knox. “She has an intimate knowledge of and interest in women’s education. She has had experience as a trustee deeply involved in a private female liberal arts college.” Knox and Laffitte agreed that “fund-raising and friend-raising for the college” will be major goals for the new president, along with growing enrollment, particularly in the graduate and evening programs.
Dinndorf said, “For me, this is the culmination of my career leading businesses, combined with my passion for higher education, and in particular women’s liberal arts education.” Originally from Minnesota, she said she and her husband are “excited about moving to South Carolina.” The school she has served so long as a trustee is also her alma mater. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the College of St. Benedict, and earned her Juris Doctor degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul in 1982. She graduated cum laude after 3.5 years, attending evening classes while maintaining a full-time professional career. She is also a graduate of the Pacific Coast Banking School in Seattle.