Hampton University announced Monday that its president, William R. Harvey, plans to retire in June 2022 after more than four decades at the helm of the private and historically Black institution in southeast Virginia.

By the time he steps down, Harvey will have served nearly 44 years as Hampton president. The 79-year-old is one of the longest-serving higher-education leaders in the country and a prominent figure in the community of historically Black colleges and universities.

When Harvey took over in 1978 as its 12th president, the school was known as Hampton Institute and Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

Hampton was “slowly losing ground” at the time, according to the school, an acknowledgment of financial difficulties it faced in that era. But its position solidified under Harvey. Hampton was renamed as a university in 1984 in recognition of its academic expansion. Harvey now calls it “one of the best modest-sized universities in the entire country.”

Harvey is among relatively few educators in modern times to serve continuously as a college or university president for more than four decades. Richard Gouse, 74, has been president of the New England Institute of Technology in Rhode Island since 1971.