Ottawa University Board of Trustees Chairman Lucky DeFries announced today that Dr. William M. (Bill) Tsutsui [soot-SUE-ee] has been selected to serve as University President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective July 1, 2021. Dr. Tsutsui will succeed Chancellor Kevin C. Eichner, who will continue to serve the university as Chancellor Emeritus through his contract period ending June 30, 2022.
The board announced in January that it had hired the firm of EFL Associates to conduct a nationwide executive search, orchestrating a carefully planned succession process a full year before Eichner’s official retirement. The goal is to ensure that the new university president will benefit from Eichner’s years of experience, contacts, and continued engagement in ongoing strategic initiatives.
“We have been most fortunate to benefit from Kevin’s leadership, and First Lady Marylin’s grace and hospitality, over these past 13 years,” DeFries said. “This has been a period of unprecedented growth and progress at our university. Therefore, in searching for Kevin’s eventual successor, the board set its search parameters at a very high level. Our comprehensive, nationwide search attracted significant interest from a diverse group of impressive candidates. 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.”
Chancellor Eichner said he is proud to welcome Drs. Tsutsui and Swann to the university.
“Ottawa University is a very special place, and Marylin and I have been greatly blessed by the opportunity to help shape the future of our alma mater over these past years,” Chancellor Eichner said. “On behalf of the entire Ottawa University family, we extend our warmest welcome to Bill and Marjorie. We have no doubt that they will come to internalize what we call the ‘OU Spirit’ and that they will make many significant contributions to the experience of our students, staff, faculty and alumni, as well as the communities in which we operate. Bill and Marjorie understand completely our mission and core values and have a great appreciation for the transformative power of the type of higher education OU has been providing for more than 156 years.”
Born in New York City, Dr. Tsutsui grew up in Bryan, Texas, the only child of parents who were educators at Texas A&M University. Inspired by their example, he pursued his own studies at Harvard, Oxford and Princeton universities. Dr. Tsutsui earned his undergraduate A.B. degree in East Asian Studies summa cum laude from Harvard in 1985. In 1988, Oxford University’s Corpus Christi College, where he was a Marshall Scholar, awarded him a Master of Letters (M.Litt.) in Modern Japanese History. Dr. Tsutsui earned his M.A in 1990 and Ph.D. in history in 1995 from Princeton.
He has received Fulbright, ACLS, and Marshall fellowships, and was awarded the John Whitney Hall Prize of the Association for Asian Studies in 2000 and the William Rockhill Nelson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2005. He currently serves on the boards of directors of the Association for Asian Studies, the US-Japan Council, and the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and was appointed to the Japan-United States Friendship Commission in 2020.
As a scholar and administrative leader, he has held a number of key positions. Most recently, he has been serving on sabbatical as the Edwin O. Reischauer Distinguished Visiting Professor at Harvard University. Prior to that, from 2015 to 2019, Dr. Tsutsui was president and professor of history at Hendrix College, a top-tier national liberal arts college founded in 1876, located in Conway, Ark. During Dr. Tsutsui’s tenure, Hendrix was re-accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for 10 years, and he oversaw a comprehensive strategic plan resulting in significantly increased access, diversity, and affordability initiatives. An accomplished fundraiser, he led Hendrix’ largest and most successful capital campaign of more than $100 million and he personally shepherded several campus improvement projects, including the Dawkins Welcome Center, Miller Creative Quad and Windgate Museum of Art.
Prior to Hendrix, Dr. Tsutsui served from 2010 to 2014 as dean of the Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences at Southern Methodist University, where he further honed his skills as a collaborative executive and fundraiser. Before SMU, Dr. Tsutsui spent 17 years at the University of Kansas, where he served as Acting Director of KU’s Center for East Asian Studies, Chair of the Department of History, founding Executive Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Kansas, and Associate Dean for International Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. Dr. Tsutsui is the author or editor of eight books, including Manufacturing Ideology: Scientific Management in Twentieth-Century Japan, Banking Policy in Japan, and Japanese Popular Culture and Globalization. His 2004 book Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters was called a “cult classic” by the New York Times.
He has been married for 31 years to Dr. Marjorie Swann, a professor of English at Hendrix College and an expert on seventeenth-century British literature. Dr. Swann has her own impressive resume, having received her B.A. in English from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and her M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Oxford University, where she and Bill met. Dr. Swann has taught at Princeton, the University of North Texas, the University of Kansas, and at Hendrix and was also the Director of the Museum Studies Program at KU. Together, Bill and Marjorie have long enjoyed collecting and researching the history of American regional art, and have published four essays on the development of the visual arts in Kansas and throughout the Great Plains.
Regarding Kansas, Bill and Marjorie are no strangers to the Sunflower State. During the time he spent at KU, Dr. Tsutsui became familiar with Ottawa University, Ottawa, Kan., and Franklin County. He said he could not be more excited or prouder to be returning to northeast Kansas, and to have the opportunity to lead such a consistently progressive and highly respected institution of higher learning. Dr. Tsutsui is equally excited to participate in, and further advance, the ongoing development of the university’s new campus in Surprise, Ariz., which he describes as a sort of “educational miracle rising from the desert” of the West Valley of Phoenix, and to engage deeply with one of Ottawa’s true strategic gems, its adult and online educational programs and related sites in Phoenix, Overland Park, Kansas, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“I am honored, humbled and absolutely thrilled to be selected as Ottawa University’s President and CEO,” Dr. Tsutsui said. “Under Chancellor Eichner’s strategic leadership, Ottawa University has emerged as one of the great success stories in twenty-first century American higher education. At a time when many private colleges have struggled, Ottawa University has distinguished itself as far-sighted and entrepreneurial, pioneering a diversified business model that has retained the historic mission of the institution, while expanding incrementally into new markets and reaching out to new learners. I have come to deeply respect Ottawa as a university not afraid to embrace change and be bold in its vision, even as it has upheld its values of integrity and accessibility, its heritage of quality, and its deep Christian roots. Marjorie and I are excited to immerse ourselves in the extended OU community, and I look forward to working with trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alums to further elevate Ottawa University and the impact of the life-changing education that it offers.”
Dr. Tsutsui will assume the chief executive level responsibility for Ottawa’s comprehensive university system on July 1 of this year. The Chancellor’s Cabinet, consisting of the two residential campus presidents located in Ottawa, Kan. and Surprise, Ariz., the EVP and CFO, the EVP for OU Online, the University Provost and Chief Academic Officer, and the VP’s of Advancement, will report to Dr. Tsutsui at that time. As has been the case for the Eichners, Dr. Tsutsui will be expected to maintain a strong personal presence in both Kansas and Arizona, but will take up residence initially at Granger House in Ottawa.
DeFries said the board determined that Dr. Tsutsui's clear strategic vision and in-depth appreciation for Ottawa’s diversified business and academic model stood out. The search committee and the board also took special note of his illustrious academic credentials, personal warmth and empathy, passion for educating students from diverse backgrounds in a Christ-inspired community of grace, his creativity, seasoned leadership experience, strong fundraising record and sense of humor.
“Bill brings with him not only a deep understanding of higher education, but also after having served as a professor, dean and university president, he manifests a strong appreciation of how to manage and lead complex organizations through the inevitable changes that are facing all institutions of higher learning today,” DeFries said. “He is a seasoned and respected scholar, author, educator, historian, and a consummate leader in higher education with a record of innovation.”
Drs. Tsutsui and Swann are expected to move to Granger House in late June or early July. Dr. Tsutsui is already beginning his onboarding process with Chancellor Eichner’s guidance, and Dr. Swann is exploring how she might best continue her teaching and academic career at Ottawa as both begin their transitions. The university community is delighted to welcome both.
Click here for Dr. Tsutsui's official university bio.