Karen Wirth portrait
Karen Wirth

Dear MCAD Community,

As many of you know, Karen Wirth retires today as Vice President of Academic Affairs and will remain in the MCAD community as a professor emeritus. Karen has been a powerful force within this institution for almost three decades, and she will be dearly missed by all of us. At this same time, we welcome Robert Ransick as MCAD’s new Vice President of Academic Affairs, who will begin on July 1. 

Karen has long been part of the MCAD community. She was an adjunct faculty member in the early 1990s and later returned to MCAD to serve as Chair of Fine Arts from 2003 to 2010. As a chair and member of the faculty, Karen mentored MFA students; taught undergraduate courses in artists' books, sculpture, professional practice, and Fine Arts studio; and curated the exhibition Intersections: Women, Leadership, and the Power of Collaboration in the MCAD gallery. 

Karen served as Vice President of Academic Affairs, and from 2018 to 2019 was the college’s 18th president. In these leadership roles, Karen’s impact on MCAD was profound. She oversaw the college’s NASAD re-accreditation process and represented MCAD at international forums. She initiated the product design major and introduced the college’s first minors, now numbering in six. She was responsible for hiring more than 20 full time ranked faculty, and initiated the Faculty Development Day. Karen was also responsible for developing partnerships with 3M, Best Buy, Target, General Mills, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art for the MCAD@MIA five-year exhibition program. Karen’s passion for curricular work resulted in numerous initiatives that will continue to benefit MCAD in the years to come.  

Karen has received several awards during her time at MCAD including a Bush Leadership Fellowship and an American Council on Education Leadership Fellowship. She is also a founding board member of the College Book Art Association. 

In the time I have known Karen, I have been impressed by her professionalism and her dedication to MCAD. Over the past few months in particular, with the onset of the global health crisis, Karen has epitomized calm under pressure. She has displayed care, selflessness, generosity with her time, diligence, and thoughtfulness which has been an inspiration to me and to our broader community. MCAD is a better institution because of Karen’s tireless work. 

In keeping with her values around equal access to education, Karen has established the Karen M. Wirth Scholarship Fund for MCAD students. For this generous gesture and many others, we will be forever grateful.

All my best,