One truth Larry Dietz has learned during his years in higher education is that it’s never a dull endeavor. He was reminded of this reality again last month when he transitioned quickly from serving as vice president of Student Affairs to leading the University.

Dietz was named Illinois State’s 19th president on March 22 after the abrupt resignation of Timothy Flanagan, who served seven months following the retirement of President Al Bowman.

A finalist in the national search that resulted in Flanagan’s hiring, Dietz was more than ready, willing, and able to serve when the opportunity arose. While he acknowledges the circumstances were a bit tumultuous, he has taken the reins with a confidence that is energizing and motivational.

“We’ve been providing quality education since 1857 and we are going to continue to do that,” Dietz said. “I have been hired to look to the future, and it’s very bright.”

That is his main message to alumni, along with an assurance that “change, even turbulent change, is common at universities. The true constant at Illinois State University can be found in the mission, vision, and values articulated in our strategic plan, Educating Illinois.”

Dietz offers assurances that the plan will continue to be the blueprint followed as Illinois State advances with the same commitment and excellence that graduates across generations experienced and appreciated.

“Teaching, learning, service, scholarship and research are at the core of our mission. That mission allows us to attract outstanding faculty and staff as well as motivated and engaged students to our campus community. This basic mission has been our foundation for 157 years and will endure as we meet the many challenges that come with change.”

Our best ambassadors

He encourages alums to be proud, stay involved, attend events, and talk about their positive ISU experiences with others.

“Alumni are the best ambassadors we can ever have,” he said, expressing his enthusiasm for the opportunity to meet and work with graduates in the months ahead.

Dietz is equally eager to hear from alums directly as he begins his new leadership role, one he has prepared for with a career in higher education. He held administrative positions at Iowa State University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Southern Illinois University before accepting the vice presidency at Illinois State in 2011. He considers himself blessed to work with students in a field that shapes the next generation.

“Look at what we do in education. We change lives. Who else gets to do that? That’s the reason we exist. I take that charge very seriously and I am humbled to be in a position where I am able to do that.”

Stating his determination and eagerness to lead Illinois State forward, Dietz sees his duty as one he has known since his childhood days on the family’s dairy farm: work hard, stay positive, and be willing to grow.

“I’ve been working in higher education for 40 years,” Dietz said. “As president I’m still the same with my values, my drive, ambitions, and willingness to work for others.”

Read the full story from this interview with Dietz in the August issue of Illinois State magazine.

Fast facts about President Dietz

  • Born in Murphysboro
  • Family farm in DeSoto
  • Married to Marlene, owner/president of Dynamic Leadership Development consulting firm
  • Two adult children living in Kansas City; four grandchildren
  • Beyond three degrees, completed Harvard University’s Institute for Educational Management; completed Harvard’s Management Development Program; attended Fulbright International Education Seminar for Administrators in Germany
  • Vice chancellor for Student Affairs and associate professor, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
  • Vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and adjunct faculty, University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Associate director of Financial Aid and Student Employment, Iowa State University

Susan Marquardt Blystone can be reached at