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The College of St. Benedict and St. John's University have chosen their first joint president.

Brian Bruess will begin leading both Catholic liberal arts schools on July 1, the private colleges announced Tuesday. The two partner schools, located just miles apart, have streamlined their administrative functions in recent years to become more efficient; they began sharing trustees in January.

"I relish the opportunity to play a role in continuing the traditions of excellence and community found on both campuses, while at the same time harnessing our collective power to move forward in bold new ways that I believe can serve as a national model of cooperation, togetherness and superior educational quality," Bruess said.

While St. John's, in Collegeville, Minn., is a men's college and St. Ben's, in nearby St. Joseph, is for women, they operate in most ways like a single coed school, with shared courses, faculty, facilities, programs and social activities. Both institutions, founded by Benedictine monks and nuns, created a formal partnership more than 60 years ago. Residence halls are one of the few ways the schools are separated — women and men live on their respective campuses.

A growing number of Minnesota colleges have begun sharing resources without formally merging in recent years to cut costs and become more efficient. Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College share a president, a financial aid office and several dozen positions. And the Minnesota State colleges and universities system's board of trustees will be appointing a new president Wednesday to lead both Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College.

Bruess comes from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., where he served as president since 2017. He helped St. Norbert achieve record enrollment numbers, and he also led a fundraising campaign that nearly doubled the size of the college's endowment.

Before that, Bruess worked at St. Catherine University, a Catholic liberal arts women's college in St. Paul, for 21 years. He held a variety of roles there and was the college's executive vice president and chief operating officer for more than three years.

"With his successful experiences in higher education, President Bruess is an outstanding and unique match with Saint Ben's and Saint John's and what we do for both women and men," said Bennett Morgan, vice chair of the colleges' trustees.