Personnel Change to Announce
January 6, 2014 | 10 a.m.
It is with sadness that I announce the resignation of Leon Rodrigues, chief diversity officer at Bethel. Leon has accepted a position as chief diversity officer for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system and will begin February 1. In his new role, Leon will be responsible for coordinating, guiding and developing efforts to define, understand, assess, foster, and cultivate diversity as a fundamental institutional and educational resource for MnSCU.
His new role will be a continuation of his lifelong career working with youth of color. Growing up as the son of a Baptist minister in rural South Africa, Leon worked as a licensed social worker and started extracurricular youth programs that were not acceptable in segregated South Africa at the time. After apartheid collapsed in South Africa's historic 1994 elections, Leon decided to continue his education in the United States and enrolled in graduate school at the University of Minnesota where he finished his doctoral studies in education, joined the faculty, and once again began mentoring youth of color.
When Leon joined Bethel as the associate dean of diversity and community in the College of Arts & Sciences in 2003, he brought a level of expertise and a web of community connections that added great value to Bethel. When President Brushaber appointed him to the role of chief diversity officer in 2006 and asked him to be part of the Provost’s Team, Leon and I got to know each other in more depth. However, it was during a trip together to South Africa that I got to know Leon’s heart in a way that changed my own heart. I came to understand the history and experiences that shaped him and enabled him to grow and serve in a very challenging position. That time also elevated my own understanding of our racial history in the U.S.
Leon’s role often put him between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” He handled that tension with amazing grace. In situations that others would describe as “no win” Leon patiently and skillfully worked to bring a win for all involved. Leon brought a social worker’s listening ear, a community organizer’s sense of advocacy, a pastor’s belief in the healing power of reconciliation, a sage’s ability to draw wise counsel from life experience, and a diplomat’s ability to network to bring progress and meaningful results.
Some of Leon’s best work will continue to bless Bethel as he moves to a position of state-wide influence at MnSCU. The shalom paradigm, reworking of our employee education regarding diversity, connections with the community beyond Bethel, and the diversity mapping project are among the important contributions where his leadership mattered. I am deeply thankful for his leadership, analytical abilities, and friendship. I will miss him as a colleague. Please join me in expressing our gratitude to Leon for his 10 years of service to Bethel. Details for a farewell reception for Leon will be listed in E-Announcements.