Northland College’s Board of Trustees has named international business leader, philanthropist and educator Marvin J. Suomen of Los Angeles, California, as its 14th president. He will start his position on July 1.
“Marvin is one of those few individuals whose accomplishments give him access to most endeavors anywhere in the world,” said Trustee Chad Dayton, who chaired the presidential search committee. “We are fortunate to have him 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 shores of Lake Superior. The college has 650 students and has gained a reputation for its environmental mission and experiential curriculum that connects students and faculty with nature, businesses and organizations, and the community.
Suomi, who was born in Wakefield, Michigan, 50 kilometers east of campus, led Kajima International through 37 years of extraordinary growth. As president, CEO and chairman of Kajima, he directed one of the world’s largest real estate and construction companies, developing projects as diverse as the large-scale campus development at the University of Central Florida into a high-tech research park. in Israel. One of Finland’s projects, AT&T Park in San Francisco, was the first Major League Baseball park to receive LEED Gold certification.
Suomi said she was moving from her home in Los Angeles to Ashland to be part of a truly unique institution. Northland College recently earned a STARS Gold rating in recognition of its environmental and sustainability achievements by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and was named one of the top ten undergraduate institutions in the world for sustainability. in the academic category, focusing on curriculum and research.
“I am really optimistic about the future of Northland College and I have decided to ensure its viability as a leader on the international stage,” Suomi said. “Northland College has shaped the curriculum and culture that a new generation of researchers and entrepreneurs are looking for.”
Finland has invested its energy in higher education throughout its career. He has served on the boards of more than a dozen institutions—from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, to the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in East Asian Studies from the University of Michigan and Princeton University.
“I am a product of a liberal education,” Suomi said. “As my name suggests, my education provided me with liberating opportunities I could never have imagined as a boy from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”
Finland named a career highlight for his position as a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, teaching everything from the works of 17th-century Japanese poets to the effects of an aging population.
In 2007, he was selected as Finland’s Philanthropist of the Year by the Council of Independent Higher Education Institutions for his meritorious service and generosity. In 2009, the Republic of Finland awarded the Knight, First Class honor to Suomi (whose surname is literally the Finnish word for “Finland”) in recognition of her work in promoting educational opportunities in the United States and abroad.
Northland College’s presidential search committee, which included trustees, faculty, staff, alumni and student representatives, conducted a six-month national search to replace outgoing President Michael Miller. Miller led Northland for the past eight years through unprecedented donor support and curriculum development before announcing his retirement last fall.
“I am truly excited about the opportunity to become the next president of Northland College and build on Mike Miller’s accomplishments,” Suomi said.