RICHMOND, Ky. (Aug. 15, 2012) — Doug Whitlock, Eastern Kentucky University’s 11th president, this morning announced his plans to retire at the end of this academic year, according to Marc Whitt, EKU associate vice president for public relations and marketing.
Whitlock made the announcement during his annual Opening Convocation Address before the faculty and staff.
Whitlock, 69, was named interim EKU president in 2007 and then president in 2008. He previously had worked for the university for 38 years. His contract extends through July 2014, ending 12 days before his 71st birthday.
“This gives the Board essentially a year to conduct a search to identify my successor,” Whitlock said.
Gary Abney, chair of the EKU Board of Regents said the Board’s search process to find Whitlock’s successor will “take into consideration the interests of Eastern’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, supporters, the community and region we serve. The Board of Regents will select the best person to lead Eastern going forward.”
The board will send out a request for proposals to retain a search firm “to assist us as we move through the search and selection process. All constituents of the university, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, the EKU Foundation, the external community, and the Board of Regents will have input in the EKU presidential search process.”
In his convocation remarks, Whitlock cited five reasons for his decision:
— The “march of time. There is no cure,” he said, “for the common birthday. My effective retirement will come 12 days before I turn 70.”
— Family. “I simply want to spend more time with our family, particularly our granddaughters.”
—A pending capital campaign at the university. “I know that there is no set of circumstances where I would be willing to work to the end of such an effort. Capital campaigns do not need to be going on while there is a change in presidents.”
— The start of the next biennial budget session in the Kentucky General Assembly in January 2014. “My successor will have the opportunity to participate with the Council on Postsecondary Education in development of the biennial budget request and be fully engaged with the legislative session.”
— A “realization that neither I, nor anyone else, is irreplaceable. There was never a natural stopping point for any of my predecessors, there would not be for me, and there will not be for any who come after me. The best you can do is pass a work in progress on to the next person, hopefully better than what you inherited.”
Whitlock said his love affair with EKU began “when I set foot on the Richmond campus as a first-generation college student more than four decades ago, and my pride has only grown through the years as I’ve watched my alma mater evolve into an institution of increasing national distinction.”
He earned two degrees from EKU — a bachelor’s degree in history and social science in 1965 and a master’s degree in history a year later. He earned his doctoral degree in higher education from the University of Kentucky in 1981.
During his tenure, Whitlock has initiated and overseen capital, regional stewardship, student success and academic research projects that will long define Eastern’s future, according to EKU. These projects include Kentucky’s second largest performing arts center and a state-of-the-art science building; the innovative Noel Studio for Academic Creativity (based in EKU’s John Grant Crabbe Library); and the Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies.
Earlier this year, the president told the EKU Board of Regents that he had “the will, energy and ability” to lead the institution in the “challenging days ahead.”
He identified an action plan to move the institution forward, which included articulating a vision focused on student success, regional stewardship and the development of students as critical and creative thinkers who can communicate. Whitlock also promised to focus on enrollment management, operational efficiencies, streamlining administrative overhead, and evaluating his senior staff. He said he’d have more direct engagement with the merged Strategic Planning and Budgeting Council to help ensure that priorities “are set and pursued in the best long-term interests of the institution,” and spend more time in the service region.
With Whitlock at the helm, Eastern Kentucky University has garnered several national recognitions, including: designations by Forbes and U.S. News as being among America’s best colleges; distinctions as a community-engaged university by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Washington (DC) Monthly magazine; and recognition for two consecutive years as one of America’s “Great Colleges to Work For,” including 2010’s designation as an Honor Roll institution, by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Most notably, perhaps, is EKU’s recognition as a veterans-friendly campus by G.I. Jobs magazine and a Number 1 ranking in the nation by Military Times EDGE magazine with its “Best for Vets” honor.