CUAA alumni brothers Chris and Matt Deneen experienced the campus pre- and post-merger, giving them a unique perspective on the historic event.

Editor’s note: A version of this story first appeared in the fall 2023 edition of Hearts Together. The official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor publishes biannually.  

A lot has been written recently about the 10th anniversary of the merger between CUW and CUAA. Back in 2013 when it was all happening, two brothers in Ann Arbor had a unique perspective on what it all meant.

Matt Deneen, now a Lutheran teacher, graduated in 2013. Chris “Critter” Deneen, now a Lutheran pastor, started as a freshman that fall. Between them (they both served as student body president), they had a unique “before and after” perspective on what was happening.

Before the merger

Considering how CUAA is thriving now (another record enrollment was announced for the current semester), it’s easy to forget what a financial pinch the Ann Arbor school was in. By the time he was a junior, Matt said, there were fears that the school might close or at least that programs might be cut.

“We weren’t entirely sure we were going to have a Concordia for senior year,” he recalled, “or what programs they might be able to offer.”

Fortunately, from his vantage point as student body president, Matt was aware that talks were already taking place with Concordia University Wisconsin. Some students worried they might lose their school’s identity.

“We were afraid we were no longer going to be the Cardinals,” he said. “We thought, ‘Are we all going to be Falcons now?’”

Those fears were alleviated when it became clear that it would not be a takeover but rather a true merger. Both schools would keep their independent identities, and Matt’s diploma would still say “CUAA Cardinals.”

After the merger

By the time Chris started that fall, the merger had been announced. Still, it was unclear what effects it might have.

“The academic catalog looked completely different,” he recalled. “But when the athletics programs started expanding right away, it was a strong sign that things were going to be okay.”

If anything, the merger made the rivalry with CUW even stronger, Chris said. Especially when a Concordia Invitational Tournament (CIT) victory was at stake.

“Sometimes CUW students would chant, ‘We Still Own You!’” Chris said. “So one time we got a bunch of fake money, and when they started chanting that we threw the money up in the air and chanted back, ‘Thank You, Thank You!’”

The bottom line is both Deneens are grateful the merger has worked out so well. They’ll always love the Cardinals more than the Falcons. However, it’s nice they still have a campus to “come home” to. And be proud to call their own.

Merger milestones

Since the 2013 merger, Concordia University Ann Arbor has seen tremendous growth:


Growth in total enrollment


Fastest-growing independent institution in Michigan


Graduate programs added


Undergraduate programs added


Athletic programs added

Want in?

If you’re a fan of sports but not necessarily into the health and fitness side of things, you might want to consider a major in sport and entertainment business, There are countless fulfilling and dynamic careers you can choose that will keep you in the middle of the action. A BS in sport and entertainment business is just one of many exciting business degrees available at the Haab School of Business at CUAA.

The fall 2023 Hearts Together magazine hit mailboxes in November. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email