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Valparaiso University outlines interim president timeline as Heckler prepares to step down

Valparaiso University outlines interim president timeline as Heckler prepares to step down


The chapel at Valparaiso University is shown.

VALPARAISO — Valparaiso University has announced an interim president-elect to take over as current President Mark Heckler transitions away from his role as VU's top administrator.

Colette Irwin-Knott, a Valparaiso University graduate and Board of Directors member, will become interim president-elect effective Sept. 1, the university announced Wednesday.

Heckler, who announced in August 2019 he would be stepping down from the role of president after more than a decade of leadership, will transition responsibilities to Irwin-Knott throughout the month of September, after which Heckler will assume a president emeritus role.

Colette Irwin-Knott

Colette Irwin-Knott

As president emeritus, Heckler will stay active in fundraising efforts like the university's Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future initiative.

Irwin-Knott will become interim president after Heckler takes on the role president emeritus, according to an email to Valparaiso University alumni.

The incoming interim president-elect graduated from Valparaiso University with a bachelor of science degree in 1981 and has served as a member of the university's Board of Directors since 2009.

Irwin-Knott was spent her career in public finance, working on hundreds of municipal bond projects for schools and libraries, according to a Valparaiso University news release. She retired from the Indianapolis accounting firm H.J. Umbaugh & Associates as a partner in 2014 where she developed a women's initiative for career development.

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She has also been active in ministries serving inner-city teenagers in Indianapolis, serves on the board of the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation and has been named as a "Woman in the Lead for Financial Services" by the Indianapolis Business Journal, according to the VU news release.

Irwin-Knott will assume the role of interim president-elect as Valparaiso University's search for a new president approaches the one-year mark.

Heckler, who assumed his role as VU's 18th president in 2018, announced his intention to step down last August.

The university has since convened an 11-member search committee comprised of VU board members, faculty and alumni. In the committee's most recent update posted June 15, President Search Committee Chair John Draheim announced the committee has hired a new search firm, WittKieffer, to review feedback collected earlier in the search process. 

Draheim said the future meetings with finalist candidates will be conducted confidentially to "increase interest among very senior candidates who possess the leadership attributes and experience desired."

More information about Valparaiso University's president search is available online at

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