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Former MSU Denver president retires

Reflecting on Sheila Kaplan’s many contributions to MSU Denver and her legacy of leadership.

By Lindsey Coulter

November 26, 2018

Sheila KaplanSheila Kaplan, Ph.D., president of then-Metropolitan State College of Denver from 1993 to 2003, announced her retirement this week. Kaplan was the first woman to lead the institution, and during her tenure the campus and its culture changed significantly.

During Kaplan’s decade of leadership, enrollment surpassed 20,000 students and the institution saw a surge in minority enrollment and gained independence from the Colorado state college system to form its own governing board.

It was also during Kaplan’s presidency that MSU Denver expanded physically, constructing the World Indoor Airport, the Administration Building and the King Center, which Kaplan called “very important additions to the academic program.”

The college also expanded in the digital space, with the debut of MSU Denver’s first homepage and — one year later — its first online course. These advances earned the institution national attention and recognition as a pioneer in online education.

All these accomplishments are made more notable given that, during Kaplan’s leadership, Colorado was experiencing financial hardships that resulted in fewer resources funneled to higher education. Despite this, Kaplan is proud that MSU Denver was able to grow — hiring new faculty, establishing innovative new programs and developing existing programs.

After resigning from the presidency in 2003, Kaplan has continued to serve MSU Denver students as a member of the faculty, teaching modern European history courses in the History Department.

“(MSU Denver) faculty are committed to working with all students … and it was a great pleasure to go back to teaching,” said Kaplan, who prior to joining MSU Denver served as vice president for academic affairs at Winona State University in Minnesota and vice chancellor of the Minnesota State University system before becoming chancellor at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside.

In her retirement, Kaplan plans to stay active, taking two months off to “get all the things in order that you’d don’t get in order when you’re working” before traveling.