Dr. Matthew P. vandenBerg

Dr. Matthew P. vandenBerg,
19th President of PC

In October 2020, the Presbyterian College Board of Trustees voted unanimously to elect Dr. Matthew P. vandenBerg as the institution’s 19th president. He took office on February 1, 2021, becoming one of the youngest college presidents in the nation.

President vandenBerg is an ardent champion for liberal arts colleges and an accomplished higher education, external relations, strategic planning, and fundraising executive. Bringing a spirit of energy, optimism, collaboration, and innovation to PC, he has quickly built an impressive and service-minded leadership team, completed an ambitious listening tour with more than 1,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends, engaged deeply with the student body, and supported initiatives to further bolster the college’s financial strength and overall vitality.

The early focus of President vandenBerg’s administration has been to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to students and student success, to build on the college’s historic strengths toward a bold, distinctive, and galvanizing vision, to partner with Laurens County leaders to accelerate growth and development, to foster community building and inclusion on campus, and to facilitate the work of PC’s talented faculty and staff through creativity and resource development.

As a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) who has led campaigns at 11 educational and research organizations, President vandenBerg brings two decades of constituent engagement and philanthropic experience to PC. Prior to his tenure at PC, he served as vice president for advancement and external relations at Alma College in Michigan. During his tenure there, the institution’s overall fundraising production increased from an annual average of $6 million to more than $17 million, and the college achieved its five largest years for budget-related annual giving and overall philanthropic support. President vandenBerg also planned and implemented the record-setting “Our Time is Now” campaign, which fully funded all 16 of its major priorities and raised more than $125 million, compared to the previous record effort of $37 million. The campaign also generated more than 30 seven-figure gifts, compared with three of such magnitude during the prior effort.

As Alma’s chief external relations officer, vandenBerg worked closely with the broader Alma community in a variety of ways, including by promoting economic development, facilitating community service projects and internship opportunities, and meeting with elected officials. He also oversaw and designed the launch of the Alma Ambassador Program®, a trend-setting, branded engagement initiative designed to organize, support, and promote all types of volunteerism benefitting the college, its students, and its host community. In just five years, the program grew to more than 5,000 members and became the single-largest comprehensive volunteer engagement initiative among U.S. liberal arts institutions. In that same timespan, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) recognized the Alma Ambassador Program® with 13 awards, including the prestigious Platinum Award for Best Practices in Alumni Relations.

Before his tenure at Alma College, vandenBerg served as associate vice president for development at Albion College in Albion, Mich., where he positioned the school to launch a $100 million campaign and oversaw a record $2.5 million annual fund. As assistant dean for development and alumni relations at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, vandenBerg helped launch the university’s $3 billion Bicentennial Campaign.

President vandenBerg brings to PC a variety of experience in leading critical campus-wide strategic conversations on the development of curricular and co-curricular offerings. At Alma, he chaired the college’s Task Force on Institutional Distinction, a diverse group of faculty and staff charged with inventorying Alma’s existing strengths and crafting strategies to leverage those assets to differentiate the college from competitors. The task force’s work enabled Alma to offer an even more powerful value proposition to prospective students. Moreover, the group’s efforts set the stage for the emergence of signature interdisciplinary centers tied to key institutional strengths.

President vandenBerg is a fervent advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion work at higher education institutions and brings to PC an array of relevant leadership experience from such institutions as Centenary College (now Centenary University) in Hackettstown, N.J. and Indiana University. He also helped lead Alma College in undertaking an independent assessment of its campus climate related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

President vandenBerg has researched issues in higher education throughout his career. His doctoral dissertation, “The symbiotic path to mutual value: How small, private, liberal arts institutions understand and manage donor influence,” – won the 2019 John Grenzebach Award for Outstanding Research in Philanthropy for Educational Advancement, sponsored by CASE. He has conducted and presented original research at Peking University in Beijing, China and has published in Insider Higher Education and other outlets. He has been a frequent public speaker and presenter at conferences, including engagements with the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the National Parent Fundraisers conference.

Prior to his work in higher education, President vandenBerg served as assistant vice president at CCS Fund Raising, a leading fundraising management firm. He also served as a foreign policy, national defense, and immigration advisor and a spokesperson for the chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence at the U.S. House of Representatives.

A summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Alma College, President vandenBerg holds a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. He also earned a master’s of public affairs degree from the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, where he concentrated in nonprofit management and public policy analysis.

President vandenBerg and First Lady, Melissa, are both lifelong Presbyterians and were married at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., just blocks from where they met. The vandenBergs have two children, Jackson (8) and Sylvia (5).

In these short videos, President vandenBerg talks about how he plans to build on PC’s foundation and why he thinks PC’s best days are ahead. And you’ll learn about Dr. vandenBerg as a family man and fitness fanatic.

“Higher education institutions across the country are contending with significant headwinds. However, with a shared sense of purpose, a creative spirit, and sustained focus, PC can emerge stronger than ever and build a tremendous foundation for the next 140 years.”

– Dr. Matthew vandenBerg

Quotes about Dr. vandenBerg

“Dr. vandenBerg embraces the Christian faith and is a lifelong member of the PC (USA). He sought a presidency at a church-related liberal arts college, and specifically PC, as our mission of developing well-rounded students is a driving force for him.”

E. G. Lassiter ’69

chair of PC’s Board of Trustees

“My primary concern as chair of the search committee was to find the person who has working knowledge and sufficient grasp of all of the challenges facing higher education and has the ability to communicate and lead strategies that will address those that are most urgent for Presbyterian College.

“That person would need to be able to develop and nurture effective relationships with all of the constituencies that make up the PC family. High on the list of priorities were student enrollment, fundraising, shared governance within the institution, and emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

“Drawing on his experience and inspiring leadership style, Dr. vandenBerg demonstrates the ability and desire to quickly address those concerns.”

Dr. Holbrook Raynal ’70

chair of the presidential search committee, member of PC’s Board of Trustees

“Dr. vandenBerg brings a track record of success as well as an energy and dynamism that I believe will serve PC well. In this challenging and changing time for higher education, his experience working at similar institutions and his openness to innovative ideas is exciting and promises a bright future.

“I anticipate that faculty and the president will work together to continue improving the academic experience at PC.”

Dr. Michael Nelson

PC history professor, presidential search committee member, and chair of the Faculty Senate at PC