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Article updated: 2/9/2013 12:22 PM

Judson University selects new president

By Elena Ferrarin

Judson University has selected the seventh president in its 50-year history in Elgin, officials announced Friday.

Gene C. Crume Jr. will begin his tenure April 7 as president-elect of the private Christian university. After a transition period, he will take on the role of president on May 10.

Crume, of Terre Haute, Ind., most recently worked as an independent consultant for external relations and strategic planning, working with institutions including Saint Mary's University of Minnesota and the Peru State College Foundation in Nebraska.

First on his agenda, Crume said, is to learn "what's in the hearts and minds of the community."

"It's dangerous to come with presumptions into a new situation," he said. "From afar, it's pretty clear Judson is certainly in a strong place and a strong foundation, and it has a great breadth of programs both academically and student-wise."

A primary goal will be to increase enrollment at Judson, which currently has just under 1,200 students, Crume said.

The search for a new president started in September 2011, shortly after then-president Jerry B. Cain announced he would retire at the end of the school year. William Crothers took the post of interim president on July 1, 2012.

"We are excited by the diverse leadership experiences, exceptional organizational gifts and vital Christian commitment that Dr. Crume will bring to the Judson community," Judson board Chairwoman Carol Thompson said in a news release.

The university hired consulting agency Sima International to screen "dozens and dozens" of applicants, Thompson said.

Board vice chairman Randy Gauger said Crume stood out because of his fundraising experience and collaborative leadership style.

"He worked in secular education for some time, but he had a strong desire to be connected to an organization that had a Christian mission," he said.

Judson had some financial issues this year, laying off 21 staff members at the end of October, and ending 11 faculty members' contracts effective next year. The university is $165,000 in the red across all funds this academic year, officials said.

All educational institutions have suffered financially after the 2008 economic downturn, Crume pointed out.

"Anybody looking at any presidential search should not have a perspective that the finances are rosy," he said. "Judson certainly has enough financial capacity to accomplish any goals we establish in five to 10 years."

Judson is expected to have a balanced budget next year, officials said.

Crothers will serve as president through the 2012-13 academic year, and will remain in a consulting role through June 30.

Crume has served as executive vice president and assistant professor at Midland Lutheran College, now Midland University, as executive director of Western Kentucky University's alumni association, and as president of the Indiana State University Foundation.

Crume grew up in Kentucky, and earned his bachelor's degree in public relations and his master's degree in communications from Western Kentucky University. He got a Ph.D in education from the University of Virginia.

He is married to Cindy Smith Crume, and has two children.

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