It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the death of former president, colleague and friend, Dr. Dennis Rittenmeyer, who passed away on April 13, 2023. The entire Calumet College of St. Joseph family mourns this great loss.
Rittenmeyer’s true passion for education is reflected in his impressive 40-year career in higher education. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Western Michigan University and went on to earn his doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration from Michigan State University.
After serving in various roles at other universities, Dr. Rittenmeyer began his tenure as President of Calumet College of St. Joseph in 1987 and would continue in this role for the next 24 years. He had the distinction of being the longest-serving college president in Indiana. This was a role he was born to play.
Dr. Rittenmeyer arrived at Calumet College of St. Joseph during a time of financial crisis. He successfully restored the college’s financial stability, utilizing the leadership skills for which he was well-known. Throughout his tenure, his perseverance to see the right thing done sustained his efforts to overcome obstacles in order to establish the college as the exceptional resource it is today. Under Dr. Rittenmeyer’s direction, the enrollment increased by nearly 500 students; educational programs were expanded from associate’s degrees only, to associate’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees; the first capital campaign was successfully completed and an endowment fund was established for the continuously growing institution.
Under his watch the college’s athletic program was added in 1999 and a $3.5 million student athletic center – the first new building in the college’s history – was built in 2009. The new center was named the Dennis & Leslie Rittenmeyer Athletic Center in honor of their great devotion to the college. His hands-on, boots on the ground style of leadership endeared him to faculty and staff.
“President Rittenmeyer was a transformative leader and through his tireless work he ensured that the college would flourish and change the lives of thousands of students,” said The Very Rev. Jeffrey Kirch,
C.PP.S., Provincial Director of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the sponsoring order of the college.
Remarkably committed to the community, Rittenmeyer filled leadership roles in numerous organizations, including the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, Quality of Life Council, Shared Ethics Committee, the Lake Area United Way, Tri-City Mental Health Center.
He served for nearly 10 years as the volunteer president of the Lake County Regional Bus Authority. In 2009 he was honored by Gov. Mitch Daniels with the Distinguished Hoosier Award, Indiana’s highest award for citizens, for his tireless efforts on behalf of public transportation in Northwest Indiana.
Cal Bellamy, a long-time colleague, said, “Dennis was a close friend of many years, a man dedicated to the highest principles and a positive force for good in so many ways.”
Dr. Rittenmeyer is survived by his wife, Leslie and children Nicole Rittenmeyer, Kristin Rittenmeyer, Jeni Bonjean, Maggie (Henrik Essunger) Bonjean , and Adam (Jen Leslie) Bonjean along with 12 grandchildren.
The family wishes that memorials be made to Calumet College of St. Joseph, 2400 New York Avenue, Whiting, IN 46394 or https://www.ccsj.edu/donate/ .