St. Catherine University president names higher education, health care professional as vice president for external relations
Blanche (“Bea”) Abdallah has been named vice president for external relations at St. Catherine University, which serves more than 5,000 students at campuses in St. Paul and Minneapolis. In this Cabinet-level position, Abdallah will provide leadership for alumnae relations, development, and marketing and communications.
She began her new role on August 7.
Currently the senior major gifts officer at Fairview Foundation in Minneapolis, Abdallah has held numerous leadership positions in higher education, including vice president for institutional advancement at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; director of advancement, alumni relations and marketing at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine and Health Sciences; and director of development for UND’s College of Business and Public Administration. Earlier in her career, Abdallah led the Alumni Foundation at Mayville State University in North Dakota.
“Bea is a leader of significant talent and experience, and I am thrilled to welcome her as a key partner in our important work,” said St. Catherine University President Andrea Lee, IHM, in an announcement July 8 to the campus community. “Together, we will extend the reach and visibility of the University and attract new resources to support our 2020 Vision strategic plan.”
Abdallah succeeds St. Catherine alumna and former trustee Marjorie Mathison Hance, who retired in December after six years as vice president for external relations. Higher education consultant Mark Kronholm has served as interim vice president since January.
Among the career experiences and accomplishments that will serve Abdallah at St. Kate’s, according to Sister Andrea and members of the search committee:
- Demonstrated success in identifying and cultivating key individual, corporate and foundation prospects, and implementing strategic plans to meet the objectives of organizations ranging from a small rural college to a major university.
- Broad-based experience that spans health care, education and business environments.
- Strengths that include alumni relations, strategic market planning, branding, cross-functional team leadership, grant writing, major event planning, comprehensive marketing campaign development, project management and vice president–level leadership experience in community relations.
“Bea impressed trustees, senior colleagues and staff with a rare combination of experience and fundraising acumen, personal commitment to collaboration, and a deep interest in serving as a leader at St. Kate’s,” said Sister Andrea. “Her unique skills will make an outstanding contribution to the continued strength of St. Catherine University.”
Abdallah said she was impressed by the vision of the president, whom she calls a “leader of integrity,” and the historic mission of St. Catherine — founded as a college for women in 1905 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. “What excited me was St. Kate’s itself, the quality of the institution and the fact that it is strongly supportive of women and leadership,” Abdallah said. “That is important to me as a person and important to our society.”
In her leadership role, Abdallah will serve with academic deans and other vice presidents as a member of the President’s Cabinet. She also will sit on the University Council and staff several key committees of the Board of Trustees, including ones devoted to fundraising and visibility.
Abdallah holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks and is a member of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Association of American Medical Colleges and Rotary Club of America.