Two leaders who have overseen a slew of successes at their universities during the past decade announced they will be stepping down at the end of the 2022-23 academic year.
University of North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs said she is planning to retire next June, while Wayne State University’s M. Roy Wilson did not offer a reason that he will not pursue a contract extension at the end of July 2023. They join the growing scroll of presidents who are walking away from power posts after enduring more than two years of the COVID pandemic and facing new challenges, including meeting lofty enrollment and fiscal goals.
Like the dozens who have relinquished control over the past few months, they offered upbeat statements about the resiliency of their institutions as they head toward 2030 under new leaders.
“Wayne State today is strong and has a promising future,” Wilson said. “Together we have made great strides and I am proud to have served this institution and privileged to be a part of this community. I am deeply grateful that this university gave me my voice as a leader. I did not have a place that I called home when I first came here, but going forward I will always proudly call Wayne State and Detroit my home.”
Jacobs, the first-ever woman to be selected president of the institution in 2011, said she is remaining for another year to ensure that the university remains strong while it searches for her successor. “Our momentum points to a bright future,” Jacobs said. “I am announcing my plans now to ensure the Board of Regents has ample time to select UNG’s next president and to provide for a stable transition over this next year as we celebrate North Georgia’s 150th anniversary.”
Jacobs received high praise from the head of Georgia’s university system, Chancellor Sonny Perdue, for her efforts in transforming the former North Georgia College & State University into a standout university that last year was named the best public institution in the state for value and for veterans by U.S. News and World Report. Under Jacobs’ leadership, North Georgia has grown to nearly 19,000 students across five campuses, which includes a more than 20% increase in enrollment in just a decade, a 40% increase in research grants and a 64% boost in scholarships for students.
“She has been a trailblazer ever since,” said Perdue. “Over the past decade, she has been a critical factor in the university’s growth and how it has helped students find success and prosperity. President Jacobs has been a great leader for its campuses and the university system. I’m grateful for her leadership and service.”
Wayne State had flourished under Wilson since his start in 2013 and until the pandemic hit, seeing a 21-percentage point rise in the number of six-year graduates through 2018. It also had its biggest incoming class in the fall of 2020. But over the past two years, there have been noticeable declines in enrollees. However, fundraising efforts and research grants continued to hit or exceed their targets.
“The impact of President Wilson’s transformative leadership will be felt for years to come,” Board of Governors chair Mark Gaffney said. “He has led our campus in putting students and their success above all else, furthering the university’s role in providing life-changing opportunities for all students to earn a college degree. We are grateful for his years of service and commitment.”
Candidate pools are expected to open by respective boards this fall.
More from UB: The President Series
- Minerva: A look at the world’s most innovative university
- Florida Gulf Coast: From Dunk City to world impact, the rise of FGCU
- Holy Cross: Tradition reigns, but change has been positive
- University of Oklahoma: A flagship university that is changing lives on campus
- Western New England: What is a new traditional university and why is the vision so vital?
- Midland: Small university continues to be ‘relentlessly relevant
- Purdue: Growth tied to keeping students at center of bulls-eye
- Muhlenberg: Leading the way as pioneers for women
- Stetson: Why kindness has been one of the keys to Stetson’s success
- Waubonsee CC: Remaining relevant requires deep focus on students, employees
- Dominican: Providing support for first-gen students
- Rockland CC: Is this a time of opportunity for community colleges?
- University of Montana: How higher ed can work for veterans
- Quinnipiac: Creating partnerships and lifelong learning
- University of New England: The 4 areas that colleges must address to be strong over the next decade