“Meeting students, that’s always been the best part”

Interim president retiring after 30 years in MN higher education

By Lydia Hansen

Mary Davenport

On June 30, RCTC Interim President Dr. Mary Davenport will be retiring, ending her 30 years of service in Minnesota higher education.

“I’ve always admired RCTC, so coming here was an easy decision,” Davenport said.

Davenport’s career with higher education and the Minnesota state system began in 1988 in Hibbing when she helped Hibbing Technical College, then a technical institute, make the transition to a collegiate level.

In 1993, she directed a similar effort in Saint Paul as Tech Prep Program Manager under the Technical College System until this merged two years later with other state colleges and universities to become what is now the Minnesota State System. From there, she went on to oversee much of the system’s lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., eventually becoming Director of Federal Government Relations.

However, Davenport had always preferred more campus-oriented positions that brought her into contact with students.

“I never intended to stay at the state level for more than three years,” she said, “but I was on a career track. I kept getting opportunities, so I stayed.”

Finally in 2012, when the Minnesota State system came under Chancellor Steven Rosenstone’s leadership, she saw an opportunity to transition back to campuses.

She got her reorientation with campus life at Saint Paul College as an interim dean and then a year later, took the position of Vice President at Riverland College before coming to RCTC on July 1, 2016, to serve a two-year term as interim president.

“I’ve had opportunities to be a college president in the past, but the timing wasn’t right,” Davenport said. “So when this opportunity came up, given my 28 years in the system, it was a nice way to capstone my career.”

Courtesy of RCTC College Relations
After 30 years of experience in higher education, Dr. Mary Davenport’s favorite aspect of the job is still connecting with students.

Just months away from retirement, Davenport said she looks forward to spending more time with her two daughters, both of whom are finishing higher degrees. She also joked that she looks forward to “living with her husband,” Richard Davenport, after 10 years of working 90 miles away from Mankato State University where he is president.

Davenport feels confident that when her term ends in June, the search for a new president, which has been in progress for the past year, will bring forward the best match for the college.

“With everything we’re doing here, I think this is the best presidency open in Minnesota,” Davenport said. “Someone’s going to come in here who’s really good and knows how to just take this college and grow it. Rochester deserves a 24/7 president, and I’m excited for the community because they’re going to get that at a really good time.”

Although Davenport has always felt drawn to education, she originally planned to teach junior high school. Instead, her career took a hard left toward higher education, and looking back, she’s glad of the experience it brought her.

“Being president, it’s some of the most fun I’ve had,” she said. “I feel lucky I’ve had the opportunity to do that here.”

But regardless of where her career eventually took her and in what roles she’s served over her 30 years with Minnesota higher education, Davenport’s heart has always been with the students.

“Meeting students, that’s always been the best part.”

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