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Tenure at CSP & Retirement
Before serving as interim president of Concordia University Portland in 2020, Rev. Dr. Tom Ries was the president of Concordia University St. Paul from 2011 until his retirement in 2019. He received many awards and tributes at the end of his tenure. CSP renamed a building as Ries Tower in his honor, and official releases from CSP and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod celebrated the “tremendous growth in CSP’s enrollment, program offerings, student retention rates and campus facilities” that occurred under his watch alongside a $10,000 tuition “reset” in 2013.[1, 2] The Association of Lutheran Development Executives awarded him the 2019 ALDE Outstanding Executive Director Award.
Dr. Ries was subject to some scrutiny in 2018 when Pioneer Press revealed that CSP had sold a four-plex apartment building to his wife while he was president. Dr. Ries corresponded with tenants living in the building from his CSP email account as the “treasurer” for Susie Ries Interiors, Inc. The property was sold in March 2021 for $1.17 million, more than three times what Susie Ries Interiors paid CSP in 2016.
Central Midway Building
In late 2018, CSP reached an agreement to purchase a large office building near campus where it had leased office and classroom space since 2015. Officials said the building acquisition would allow it “to expand academic programs including business and health science.”
The St. Paul City Council raised concerns about the acquisition. The property sits near a newly opened light-rail line with lots of new development, and as a non-profit organization exempt from paying property tax, CSP’s ownership removed the property from the city’s tax rolls. Dr. Ries appeared before the council to defend the acquisition, but the council’s opposition continued, and CSP ultimately withdrew its request to the city for financing.[9, 10] CSP raised the money nevertheless and bought the property on March 19, 2019. One month later, at Ries’ retirement party, it was renamed as Ries Tower.
In 2020, after Concordia University Portland closed, it announced that its Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program would move to CSP. CSP also reached an agreement to buy Concordia Portland’s law school in Boise, Id., but that deal fell through.