Mark Dienhart is humbled to be included in this year’s group of Leading With Faith winners for several reasons, not the least of which is his belief that he is surrounded by others at the University of St. Thomas who regularly model the Catholic faith for him.
“There are so many people here — faculty, staff and students — who inspire me in the ways they live out their lives,” said Dienhart, executive vice president and chief operating officer at UST. “If there is something that I’m doing that’s a reflection of my faith, it is a result of the type of institution we are trying to be here. It’s part of the air you breathe on a daily basis.”
Dienhart has served in his current role since 2008; prior to that, he was executive vice president and chief administrative officer at UST for five years and was also senior vice president from 2001 to 2003.
However, Dienhart’s association with the Catholic university goes back much further to his days as an undergraduate where, in 1975, he was a student in a class taught by Father John Malone, now vice president for mission at UST and the man who nominated Dienhart for the Leading With Faith Award.
In his nomination, Father Malone reflected on their early interaction: “He was an excellent student, a gifted athlete and a young man held in the highest regard by his peers and the faculty.”
Commenting on Dienhart’s role today, Father Malone said, “In my book, Mark leads by example. His personal and professional lives are both open books. He is consistent in his attendance and participation at religious celebrations on campus. His respectfulness of all employees never wavers.”
Dienhart’s primary responsibilities lie in the management of an institution with an approximate annual operating budget of $250 million serving 6,000 undergraduate and 5,000 graduate students. However, it is the outcome of the education received by every UST student — following the school’s mission to produce “morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good” — that is particularly gratifying for him.
“We are in one of those professions where we are not trying to build a better widget than somebody else. It might sound a little corny to put it this way, but if we do our jobs well, we are actually doing our part to build a better world,” Dienhart said. “I’m always proud on commencement day, and I’m proud when I hear about the ways our graduates are having an impact on society.”
Help along the way
Dienhart and his wife, Kate, have been parishioners at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul since 1981. Kate is a fifth-grade teacher in the parish school. Since many UST students from St. Paul begin their education at Nativity, Dienhart credits his wife and her fellow teachers for the influence they have on future St. Thomas populations.
“The work she does and the work the other master teachers do at Nativity is quite noble,” he said. “They help to shape the students that we see down the road.”
Title: Executive vice president and chief operating officer at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul
Parish: Nativity of Our Lord, St. Paul
Children: Mary, Alissa and Carolyn
Activities: Board member at DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis; board member at University of St. Thomas Center for Ethical Business Culture; member and past president of Midway Serra Club; member of the DeLaSalle High School and University of St. Thomas athletic halls of fame