International business leader, philanthropist, educator returns to roots to lead Northland College
The Northland College Board of Trustees has named an international business leader, philanthropist and educator Marvin J. Suomi, of Los Angeles, California, as its 14th president. He will take office July 1.
“Marvin is one of those rare individuals whose achievements grant him access to most any endeavor anywhere in the world,” said Trustee Chad Dayton, who led the presidential search committee. “We are fortunate that he will apply his skills and energy to shaping the next step in Northland College’s growth.”
Northland College is a 125-year-old liberal arts college, located in Ashland, Wisconsin, population 8,179, on the shore of Lakes Superior. With 650 students, the College has gained a reputation for its environmental mission and experiential curriculum, linking students and teachers to the natural world, businesses and organizations, and the community.
Suomi, who was born in Wakefield, Michigan, located fifty miles east of campus, led Kajima International for thirty-seven years of extraordinary growth. As president, CEO, and chairman of Kajima, he oversaw the operations of one of the largest real estate and construction companies in the world, developing projects as diverse as a large-scale campus development at Central Florida University to a high-tech research park in Israel. One of Suomi’s projects, AT&T Park in San Francisco, was the first major league baseball park to become LEED Gold certified.
Suomi said he would be making the move from his home in Los Angeles to Ashland to be a part of a truly distinctive institution. Northland College recently earned a STARS Gold rating in recognition of its environmental and sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and was named as one of the top-ten undergraduate colleges in the world in sustainability, rating second in the academic category, focused on curriculum and research.
“I have real optimism about the future of Northland College and am determined to ensure its viability as a leader on an international stage,” Suomi said. “Northland College has shaped a curriculum and a culture sought after by a new generation of scholars and entrepreneurs.”
Throughout his career, Suomi has committed his energies to higher education. He has served on the boards of more than a dozen educational institutions—from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in East Asian Studies from the University of Michigan and Princeton University.
“I am the product of a liberal education,” Suomi said. “True to its name, my education afforded me liberating opportunities that I could never have imagined as a boy from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”
Suomi named as a career highlight, his position as a Visiting Fellow with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, teaching everything from the work of 17th century Japanese poets to the impact of aging populations.
The Council of Independent Colleges awarded Suomi the Philanthropist of the Year in 2007 for his distinguished service and generosity. In 2009, the Republic of Finland conferred the honor of Knight, First Class to Suomi, (whose last name is literally the Finnish word for “Finland”) recognizing his work in advancing educational opportunities in the US and abroad.
The Northland College presidential search committee of trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, and student representatives conducted a six-month national search to replace outgoing President Michael Miller. Miller led Northland for the last eight years through an unprecedented period of donor support and curriculum development before announcing his retirement last fall.
“I am genuinely excited about the prospect of becoming the next president of Northland College and building on the accomplishments of Mike Miller,” Suomi said.