Matz named HLGU President, turnaround called ‘miracle’
By Eric Reed/Illinois Baptist
HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP) – The Academic Dean who served as a senior leader in efforts to stabilize Hannibal-LaGrange University (HLGU) was elected president of the Missouri school by its Board of Trustees Oct. 14. Robert J. Matz becomes the 18th president of HLGU, succeeding Anthony Allen who resigned in January after nine years. The appointment serves as a period at the end of a troubled chapter.
“I’m excited about the future at HLGU under Dr. Matz’s leadership,” IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said. As a member of the Board of Trustees chairing the Business and Finance Committee, Adams served on the Presidential Search Committee.
“Dr. Matz is eminently qualified, hardworking, and brings both excellent experience and a wonderful spirit of humble confidence and optimism to the role,” Adams said. “During his short time at HLGU he has already made significant contributions to the school’s turnaround, during very difficult circumstances.”
Interim leadership was led by Transitional President Rodney Harrison, head of Baptist Homes and Healthcare Ministries in Missouri. Matz served with Harrison as his Acting Executive Vice President to stave off a threatened closure due to declining enrollment and financial shortfall.
U.S. News and World Report said HLGU had an undergraduate enrollment of 671 in Fall 2020, following COVID in the spring. Enrollment had dropped more than 450 over the previous decade.
Together Harrison and Matz cleared a debt and projected deficit totaling $2.2 million with budget and staff cuts, reconfiguring some of the 30 degree programs, eliminating two competitive sports, sale of property, and with sizable donations from Baptist supporters, including churches.
“The people of God cried out to the Lord and he heard their cry,” Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Director John Yeats said as he welcomed Matz to the new position. “For months, people who love HLGU asked the Lord for a leader and provision to rescue the university.” Under Matz’s leadership, “HLGU has a great hope and a future.”
Trustee chair Mark Anderson said, Matz’s “unique giftedness, godly character, and inspiring vision will help lead the University in the years to come.” Anderson also hailed Harrison’s work in stabilizing the school. “We have truly witnessed a miracle at HLGU and give God all the glory.”
Matz holds degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Liberty University. He was an administrator and faculty member at Midwestern Theological Seminary for 10 years. Matz and his wife, Jessica, have three children.
Matz shared their hope after receiving news of his election. “Over the last 164 years, God has shown himself to be incredibly faithful to Hannibal-LaGrange University…. We are fully committed to seeing God transform lives and communities in the days ahead.”
The Missouri school has alumni and support in Illinois. “HLGU still needs strong support from our Baptist families and churches,” Adams said, “and I believe Dr. Matz’s presidency will invite and inspire that support.”
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