Skip to main content

A trusted leader to turn to

Steve Bahls interviewed at Modern Woodmen Park

President Steve Bahls gives an interview at Modern Woodmen Park in one of  his many community roles.

“After two very full days of meetings with faculty, students, administrators, board members and community members, some suggestion of stress — even a whiff of fatigue — might have been excused. But there was nothing forced nor feigned to curb the smile with which he greeted his last round of questioners. (Steve) Bahls looked honestly happy to be there, which may not seem remarkable unless you consider he was, at that moment, entering his 20th meeting in roughly 32 hours.” — Augustana College Magazine, Summer 2003

That spoke well to several of the less tangible requirements listed in the job prospectus prepared by Augustana’s Presidential Search Committee: stamina, energy, optimism, humor and emotional resilience. 

The committee discovered much that was impressive about the candidate during his visit, and Bahls’ name was placed in nomination before the Board of Trustees a week after his visit.

Once on campus as Augustana’s new president, Bahls established himself as a driven, dedicated leader willing to put in the long hours that come with the job. It soon became apparent that serving the Quad-City community was important to him as well — though no one is sure how he found the time.

While president of Augustana, Bahls has served as board chair of Genesis Health System, Quad Cities Chamber Foundation, Illinois Quad-City Chamber of Commerce, Quad Cities Cultural Trust, Putnam Museum, and the Illowa Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He has been a board member of the United Way of the QCA and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra.

Together with John Roche, President Bahls initiated the successful merger of the Illinois Quad-City and Iowa Quad-Cities chambers into the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. He also was one of the original tri-chairs of Q2030, an ambitious plan to build the economic and cultural vitality of the Quad-Cities region.

Kai Swanson ’86 has worked closely with President Bahls since 2005. “Because of his authenticity and the trust he has built through his actions, it’s not surprising that he’s been the leader the community has turned to time and again: in efforts to unify the Quad Cities; help create a shared vision for making the Quad Cities cool, creative, connected and prosperous; and help secure the future for some of our community’s most cherished cultural resources,” Swanson said.

“As for motivation, Steve and Jane (Bahls) both came from families that saw engagement with their communities as a special source of energy and connection,” he added. “There’s a distinctive form of dynamism that comes from working together with disparate folks around a common goal. As I’ve gotten to know Steve and Jane over the years, I see their motivation to pitch in stems from very deep roots.” 

During her time in the Quad Cities, Jane Bahls has served on the boards of Family Resources, Ballet Quad Cities and the Child Abuse Council Quad Cities. 

President Bahls, as the face of Augustana for many corporations and organizations in the area, has worked hard to make connections that benefit students in search of scholarships, internships and employment.

Beyond the Quad Cities, he has chaired the boards of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, the CCIW Council of Presidents, the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America, and the Network of ELCA Colleges and University Presidents.

President Bahls also has served on the boards of national higher education organizations, including the Council of Independent Colleges and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Learn more about President Bahls’ professional and volunteer service, plus publications, presentations and awards.