After 35 years of serving the University of Minnesota community, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and dean of students Jerry Rinehart will retire early next year.
Rinehart announced last week he will step down in April.
Rinehart’s career at the University of Minnesota is a notable one — he’s held multiple positions at the University, garnered awards for his work in advising and administration and earned a reputation for his dedication to students.
But his relationship with the University community began long before his employment did. Rinehart earned his master’s degree in business administration from the Carlson School of Management.
He remembers regular impersonal interactions with student service centers.
“Often times I would walk into an office and feel like I was interrupting something very important,” Rinehart said. “I recognized that I never want to have an office that has that kind of a feel.”
And he never has.
Rinehart’s career and personal philosophy have been driven by his desire to treat students as equals rather than job assignments.
Rinehart, who has served in the Provost’s Office since 2003, said his decision to retire was completely self-motivated, and he has full confidence in the current Student Affairs staff and faculty.
“I had to draw the line somewhere,” Rinehart said. “I thought about earlier retiring, but there was always something new and exciting I wanted to see to fruition.”
During his time as the assistant dean and director of Undergraduate Programs in the Carlson School in the mid-1990s, Rinehart spearheaded efforts to convert the school to a freshman-admitting college, a highlight of his career.
“That effort is something I feel very good about,” Rinehart said. “I don’t think the Carlson School would be nearly what it is today if that decision hadn’t been made.”
Over the past 35 years, Rinehart’s reputation for putting students first has earned him recognition and awards from the academic community, including the University’s John Tate Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising for the 2002-2003 academic year.
In 2010, he was named the regional Outstanding Student Affairs Officer by NASPA — the professional organization for student affairs administrators in higher education.
But aside from the awards and accolades, it’s the personal experiences with students that will remain as Rinehart’s legacy at the University.
Senior journalism major Breanna Tobias, who served on the Student Affairs Student Advisory Board from 2011 to 2012, recalls knowing Rinehart’s name and accomplishments prior to serving on the board but not quite knowing what to expect when meeting him in person.
“Getting to meet him through those meetings, he always would be extremely personable and ask how your student organization was doing or how you were doing,” said Tobias, who represented the We Are … Minnesota Spirit Initiative on the board. “He welcomed me there, and made me feel comfortable.”
Tobias added that despite his position as a high-ranking University official, Rinehart’s easy-going and friendly nature made the entire board feel comfortable bringing up any concerns they felt were important to the student community.
“He was kind of the intermediary,” Tobias said. “We had full faith that he would do anything in his power to make that happen in our behalf.”
Zahra Karimian, a third-year pharmacy student who also served on the SASAB during the 2011-12 school year, said she’ll remember Rinehart’s ability to tackle the tough issues, while remaining “kind, humble and approachable.”
“He was very serious about student-related matters, and he was very attentive to our comments and concerns,” Karimian said.
“He could understand so many different students’ perspectives.”
After a long and storied career, Rinehart says he plans to stay active and involved with a variety of projects in his retirement, including serving on the national board for the organization Students Today, Leaders Forever.
In an email, University President Eric Kaler said Rinehart was a perfect fit for the often times difficult and demanding position of vice provost.
“Jerry is a warm and wonderful individual whose core commitment is always to help and nurture our students,” Kaler said. “We’re going to miss his insights, his patience and his passion for our students’ well-being.”
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