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ST. CLOUD – The recently appointed acting president of St. Cloud State University announced this week he is leaving to become the president of a small private college in Illinois.

Larry Lee, SCSU's vice president of finance and administration, was appointed as acting president May 5, the day before he announced sweeping cuts to both programs and faculty at the central Minnesota university. On Monday, Lee told the campus community he accepted the leadership position at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Ill., and said his last day will be July 18.

Former President Robbyn Wacker — who announced last fall she would step down at the completion of her contract on June 30 — abruptly left her post in early May ahead of the announcement that SCSU leaders plan to cut about 100 programs and 57 faculty to help balance the chronic budget deficit. It's part of a five-year plan implemented last year that will eliminate about 175 faculty and staff.

Lee's tenure as president was meant to be short-lived. In mid-April, Minnesota State named Larry Dietz as the incoming interim president at St. Cloud State. Dietz, who retired in 2021 as president of Illinois State University, will serve a two-year term beginning July 1.

Lee said it wasn't an easy decision to leave St. Cloud State, especially amid the recent upheaval that will eliminate a number of degree programs and staff to better align the university's expenses with its revenue.

"The plan that we're putting in place will firmly put St. Cloud State on solid financial footing over the next few years," Lee said. "The future is really bright."

A first-generation college student himself, Lee said one of the things that drew him to St. Cloud State two years ago was its ability to provide a rigorous education at a more reasonable cost than many other colleges. The same promise is what lured him to Blackburn, which is recognized for having the nation's only student-managed work program. Blackburn students work at least 10 hours each week for the institution in exchange for tuition benefits.

"It provides a liberal arts education and a practical work experience environment — the very definition of a well-rounded education," Lee said Tuesday. "Candidly, it called out to me. It wasn't like I was looking for something or that I am running away from something. I can tell you I am running to something."

Dan Golombiecki, the current associate vice president for finance and administration at SCSU, will serve in Lee's position until a new permanent chief financial officer is identified. University leadership will finalize the proposed cuts to programming and faculty in the coming weeks.