William “Bill” Cario, PhD, recent interim president of Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, concludes more than three decades of faithful service to the university at the end of this calendar year.

Cario’s celebrated 44-year career in education also includes 16 years as head of academics at Concordia—initially for the Mequon campus, and later, for both CUW and CUAA. A man faithful to God’s Word and the doctrine of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Cario’s steady leadership has helped to shape one of the nation’s premier Lutheran universities, impacting thousands of leaders for the Church at large throughout the world. 

Cario earned his associate degree from Concordia Ann Arbor in 1976 and completed his bachelor’s degree at Concordia Chicago in 1978. After graduation, Cario returned to his home state of New York to begin his foray into teaching. His first call was as a middle school teacher at Redeemer Lutheran School in Glendale, New York. While in New York, Cario began his pursuit of his doctoral degree in history from New York University. Within this time, he also met his wife, Cheryl. The pair have been married for 39 years and share two sons, David and Stephen, both of whom currently serve in staff positions at CUWAA.

His Concordia onboarding

In 1989, the Higher Learning Commission granted approval for Concordia Wisconsin to transition from a college to a university. The Mequon-based school was the first Concordia in the nation to earn this elevated accreditation status. In the years afterward, several faculty with terminal degrees were added to the payroll to help build the quality, caliber, and quantity of programs at the newly minted university. Rev. Dr. R. John Buuck, CUW’s president at the time, hired Cario in 1990 as Chair of the History Department, the sole member of the department at the time. A year later, Cario notably hired and shared an office space with President Emeritus Patrick T. Ferry, PhD.

In 2005, Cario accepted the position of Vice President of Academics for CUW and, two years later, rose to the level of Senior Vice President, one of three second-in-command executive positions to then-President Ferry. Cario quickly built a reputation as a reliable and unflappable administrator who cared deeply about the mission of the university and all those he served. In 1998, his faculty peers selected him as the recipient of the Ronald L. Berg Faculty Laureate Award.

His contributions to Concordia

Cario’s confident oversight of academic operations, his acumen for scholarship, and his deep care for students helped Concordia secure a status as a leader among private colleges in Wisconsin and beyond. Included among the numerous accolades and achievements the university earned during his time at Concordia are:

  • The addition of CUW’s first doctoral offering, a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2002; Today, the Mequon campus offers six doctoral degrees and the Ann Arbor campus offers two.
  • Record-high enrollment numbers, with uncharted growth at the graduate level.
  • The launch of a School of Pharmacy in 2011.
  • The acquisition of Concordia University Ann Arbor in 2013.
  • A strategic expansion of the university’s international partnerships and program offerings.

His rise to Interim President

In September 2020, Ferry announced that he would end his long-running tenure as president of CUWAA. Cario arose as the natural choice to step into the role of Interim President while the Board of Regents conducted its search for the next leader of the university. In January 2023, Erik Ankerberg, PhD, began his position as CUWAA’s president. Cario shifted to the role of Interim Chief of Staff and, later, Special Assistant to the President and Assistant Vice President of International Affairs, to help ease the transition for Concordia’s new leader and to bolster international program growth during a time of leadership transition within the department.

In retirement, Cario looks forward to reading, traveling, engaging in research, and writing a book. 

His admirers

“Dr. Cario has more than demonstrated he is a scholar among scholars, but even this accomplishment is eclipsed by his passion and compassion for our students,” says Vice President of Economic Development for CUWAA Rev. Dr. Roy Peterson, who has called Cario a colleague for nearly 17 years. “In every situation he will ask, ‘What’s best for the student?’”

CUWAA Vice President for Academics Leah Dvorak, PhD, who has served with Cario for 12 years, counts Cario as her personal mentor and friend.

“Dr. Cario has been an exemplary academic leader, Christian role model, and mentor for many Concordia faculty,” says Dvorak. “Unfailingly kind, patient and caring, Dr. Cario led with grace and humility.”

She continued: “He has dedicated his entire professional life to Lutheran education, and has served here at Concordia for 33 years, always encouraging and supporting others to be better and to put the needs of students first. He has helped me to learn and grow professionally in too many ways to count. Dr. Cario will be sorely missed. We wish him all God’s richest blessings in his retirement.”

In honor of…

Support the Concordia students for whom Cario cares so deeply. The most significant and immediate way to impact students is to donate to the Concordia Fund. Last year, the Concordia Fund provided support for:

  • Scholarships
  • Classroom and laboratory technology updates
  • Departmental operations
  • Attracting and maintaining quality students and instructors