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New residence hall named for former president Preska

Second new residence hall named for second female president.

By Tanner Kent, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 9/23/2011]

Upon meeting the woman who would eventually bear the name of Minnesota State Mankato’s newest residence hall, Mehr Jay Shahidi remembers thinking:

“She has something special.”

Shahidi was a member of Minnesota State Mankato's Student Senate in 1974. He and other student senators were interviewing candidates for the vacant presidency, and Margaret Preska was among them.

As it turned out, Preska was not given the job that year. However, she did get the president’s job in 1979, and served in that role until 1992.

The Margaret R. Preska Residence Community was formally christened before a large crowd in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center on Thursday. Preska and several members of her family were in attendance.

Mankato Rep. Kathy Brynaert called her a “powerful intellect” and a “person of warmth and humor.”

President Richard Davenport credited her for expanding the campus, increasing enrollment, adding programs and foreseeing the need for a university foundation. He thanked her for her mentorship and said Minnesota State Mankato is “deeply honored” to name a facility after her.

During Preska’s tenure, enrollment increased 43 percent to more than 16,500 students. She raised private funds to build the Wiecking Annex, Pennington Hall and the Alumni and Foundation Building as well as Andreas Observatory and the Ostrander Bell Tower.

She oversaw the university's move from lower Mankato to the hilltop area in 1979 and played a role in starting several new programs, including Minnesota State Mankato's first engineering program.

Perhaps most importantly, Davenport said, she foresaw the need for public colleges to have vehicles for raising private funds.

The four-story, nearly $24-million Margaret Preska residence hall remains under construction and is slated for completion by fall 2012.

For the complete Free Press story, see Friday's print edition, or click on

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