St. Croix Lutheran, Visitation principals both leaving

Gene Pfeifer will leave St. Croix Lutheran’s top position. (submitted photo)
Gene Pfeifer will leave St. Croix Lutheran’s top position. (submitted photo)
Dawn Nichols is leaving her role as head of school at Convent of the Visitation. (submitted photo)
Dawn Nichols is leaving her role as head of school at Convent of the Visitation. (submitted photo)

Come the first day of school next fall, there will be a lot of changes at two area private schools whose longtime leaders are leaving.

At St. Croix Lutheran, Gene Pfeifer, 56, has announced his resignation as head of school. Pfeifer has been school president since 2007 and is just the fourth with that title since its organization. Pfeifer has been elected president of Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato. Pfeifer, an Inver Grove Heights resident, will spend his last day at the West St. Paul school June 30.

Pfeifer’s wife, Carrie, will resign her positions at St. Croix Lutheran as instructor, learning resource center director, and dormitory director. She will be joining the faculty at Bethany as a full-time associate professor in the education department, and will also serve as learning disabilities coordinator.

“This decision has not been easy. ... Saying good-bye to a ministry for which we’ve grown to become extremely passionate is and will be difficult over the next several months,” Pfeifer told the school community.

The process to find a new school head will be made public in coming weeks.

St. Croix Lutheran is a private Christian middle school and high school established in 1958. As well as offering challenging coursework to area learners, the school hosts international students.  The Pfeifers were crucial to coordinating the drive for a new on-site 152-bed dormitory. The $6.7 million project was the largest ever undertaken by the school.

The new dorm is scheduled to open in May 2015, with the Pfeifers present.
At Visitation, Head of School Dawn Nichols has announced that 2015-16 will be her last year at the school. Nichols arrived in 2000 after working in North Carolina.

Ozzie Nelson, chairman of the school’s board of trustees, noted in a statement that during Nichols’ tenure Visitation added a new wing for middle school, constructed the “Heart” building and built a facility specifically for its STEM program, together at a cost of $10 million. Faculty and students benefited from stepped-up professional development opportunities.

Nichols herself, looking back on the changes in her blog, writes “Since those first days, the years have moved along in lively procession. In fact, it occurred to me very recently when walking past the kindergarten classroom, that the students who were kindergaretners during my first year at Visitation graduated in June 2013 from high school. ...Our Vis girls began as wide-eyed little ones and left us as confident young women, ready to take on the world.”

Nelson said the school will likely conduct a national search for Nichols’ successor.

Nichols wrote that she feels she’s leaving Visitation well-positioned; she said she may be able to spend more time with family.


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