November 23, 2021 – Executive search firm EFL Associates has placed Craig Kispert as vice president and chief financial officer of Ottawa University (OU), a private Baptist university based in Ottawa, KS. Steve Waldron, the recruitment firm’s managing director—legal practice and higher education practice, led the assignment along with Angela Lilje, practice and project manager, higher education practice. Mr. Kispert brings more than 33 years financial experience to OU, most recently as the SVP for finance and administration at Seattle Pacific University. “After more than a quarter century at one of America’s leading Christian universities, Craig Kispert brings a wealth of experience in higher education finance and operations to OU,” said Dr. Bill Tsutsui, president & CEO of Ottawa University. “I am impressed by Craig’s skills and smarts, but just as importantly, by his genuine embrace of Ottawa University’s mission. I am excited to welcome him to the leadership team and to get right down to work with him on a range of projects critical to OU’s ongoing growth.”
While at Seattle Pacific, Mr. Kispert led operational areas with 125 FTE staff and oversaw the financial and administrative operations for the university. He was involved with entity-wide budget planning, financial model development for new business opportunities, debt structuring and management and campus master planning. During the pandemic, Mr. Kispert played a key role in identifying new and alternative ways to conduct operations while navigating the unique challenges the crisis presented.
Mr. Kispert spent 28 years at Seattle Pacific, beginning his career as the university controller. During his tenure, he served as a board member and vice chair of the Seattle Pacific Foundation which has the responsibility to manage and invest the university’s endowment funds. He also spent nearly 15 years as a member of the Mid-Western Higher Education Compact Master Property Program, a collaborative venture that provides comprehensive property insurance coverage tailored to the needs of college campuses.
“After serving one institution for almost three decades, the last eight as CFO, I look forward to bringing all that experience and understanding to this new role for me at Ottawa University,” said Mr. Kispert. “From an outsider’s perspective, Ottawa has the breadth and depth of educational delivery modes that position it well for continued growth in a competitive marketplace. I understand the level of activity and energy it has taken to get to this point, but that all should bode well for the future of OU. I look forward to playing a role in keeping that future bright.”
Ottawa University is an institution with a 155-year heritage of educating adults and students of traditional ages for lifetimes of faith, service, leadership and significance. In addition to the main campus in Kansas, Ottawa University has a residential campus in Surprise, AZ and adult campuses in several locations around the country. From its founding in 1865 in Ottawa, the university has grown to an institution today that serves nearly 5,000 students through its residential campuses, adult, and graduate studies campuses and online.
EFL also recently assisted in the recruitment of Mr. Tsutsui as the new president and CEO of Ottawa University. The board announced in January that it had hired EFL Associates to conduct a nationwide executive search, orchestrating a carefully planned succession process a full year before Kevin Eichner’s official retirement.
“Our comprehensive, nationwide search attracted significant interest from a diverse group of impressive candidates,” said Lucky DeFries, chairman of the board of trustees. “We were very gratified at the quality of the talent, experience, and the enthusiasm of those who applied. After careful deliberation, the board agreed that Dr. Tsutsui represented the best fit for ensuring the continued momentum of the university. We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Tsutsui as Ottawa’s new university president and CEO, and his spouse, Dr. Marjorie Swann, to the life of our institution.”
Founded in 1978, EFL Associates provides executive search services from offices in Kansas City, Denver, St. Louis and Raleigh, NC. The firm specializes in the following areas: finance and banking, higher education, non-profit, life sciences, energy, construction and engineering, consumer packaged goods, manufacturing, public pension organizations, chief financial officers, and board services.
Mr. Waldron has nearly 35 years of leadership, organizational structure, strategic planning and litigation experience in the practice of law, higher education and the U.S. Marines. This combination of knowledge and personal understanding gives him a unique perspective on talent.
Ms. Lilje joined EFL Associates in 2008 and has continued to expand and improve the quality of the services offered through the higher education practice. She has overall responsibility for all of the internal operations for all recruitment projects in the practice. She coordinates the strategic roll-out of each project including pre-launch research, the development and deployment of email communications, and targeted phone calls. Ms. Lilje also oversees the electronic applicant system and communicates with candidates and clients on a daily basis.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media