CLINTON, S.C. (courtesy presby.edu) — Anita Olson Gustafson, Ph.D., was elected the 20th president of Presbyterian College in June and began her leadership of the college August 1. She is PC’s first female president.
“It is my honor to welcome Dr. Gustafson on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the entire PC community,” said Ruth Roper, chair of the Board of Trustees. “She is a highly distinguished leader who not only has the experience and vision to lead PC in its next chapter but roots that already run deep here in Laurens County and amongst the entire PC community. I look forward to being part of this exciting transition.”
Gustafson’s academic career includes nearly two decades on the PC faculty and administration. She taught history at PC 1997-2016. While at PC, she also served as interim provost from 2010-2012, interim dean of academic programs from 2005-2007, and history department chair from 2000-2004. Gustafson held a number of faculty leadership roles at PC as well, including chair of the Senior Faculty Council and chair of the PC Launch Program for Vocation, Leadership, and Service.
During her tenure at Presbyterian College, Gustafson was honored in 2007 as the college’s winner of the SCICU Excellence In Teaching award.
In 2016 Gustafson joined the Mercer University (Macon, Ga.) faculty and managed the university’s largest academic undergraduate college with nearly 2000 students and 40 academic programs. As dean, she collaborated consistently with the provost and deans from 11 other university programs, including the Schools of Law, Business, Engineering, Education, Theology, Professional Advancement, Music, Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Health Professions. In 2018, she worked with faculty to develop and implement a strategic plan for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and has continued to monitor its progress in subsequent years. Gustafson also oversaw all academic programming and worked with the provost, department chairs, and program directors at Mercer to manage budget targets.
Gustafson’s teaching and scholarly interests include American immigration history, Swedish immigration, and the history of American women. She is a strong advocate for the transformational and practical value of a liberal arts education. She focuses her leadership on building community and working together across disciplinary boundaries.
Gustafson succeeded Dr. Matthew vandenBerg, who announced in January 2023 that he would step down from the PC presidency effective June 30, 2023. vandenBerg was named president of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, and began his tenure at the college July 1. Chaplain and dean of spiritual life, the Rev. Dr. Buz Wilcoxon ’05, served as acting president of PC July 1-Aug. 1.
Gustafson earned her doctorate and master’s degrees in history from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. She holds a bachelor’s degree with majors in economics and Swedish and a minor in history from North Park University in Chicago.
Gustafson and her husband, Charles, have one son, Karl, who is a graduate student in global sustainability at the University of Helsinki, Finland.