In the last two weeks in higher education, the number of presidents to announce retirement doubled that of confirmed hires. But those who decided to step down are doing so on sound footing.
Most college leaders retiring in style will be recognized for their expansion, renovation and construction of campus facilities. Additionally, half of the six presidents to be hired or retired hail from an institution with strong religious ties.
Bonnie Cordon – Southern Virginia University
The Southern Virginia University Board of Trustees unanimously approved hiring Bonnie Cordon as the school’s 10th president.
Cordon recently spent five years as the Young Women general president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). She also served on the Board of Trustees for BYU, BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii and Ensign College in that role.
While SVU is technically a secular private liberal arts college, it identifies with the values of the LDS Church. Cordon’s seven-year leadership stint with LDC Church saw her navigate the institution through the COVID pandemic.
Serving a nearly 1,000 student body, her focus as president of SVY will be on fundraising and investment opportunities, Deseret News reports.
Frank Sánchez – Manhattanville College (N.Y.)
Manhattanville College’s Board of Trustees appointed Frank Sánchez as its 15th and first Latinx president.
Dr. Sánchez previously served as the president of Rhode Island College (RIC) from 2016 to 2022 and is celebrated for his achievements in enhancing social mobility rankings, diversifying student bodies, modernizing academic facilities and fundraising—objectives in line with Manhattanville’s strategic priorities.
Manhattanville, a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) with a nearly 40% Hispanic student body, has garnered recognition for its commitment to social mobility, earning the top spot in U.S. News and World Report rankings among private, non-profit schools in New York.
Under Sánchez’s leadership, RIC’s endowment increased, federal and state grants rose significantly, and the institution achieved financial stability with a substantial student body, Patch reports.
John Jenkins – University of Notre Dame (Ind.)
After an astounding 19-year tenure, John Jenkins will be stepping down as president of Notre Dame at the end of the academic year.
Jenkins’ most notable accomplishment for the Catholic research institution is advancing its mission as a premier research university. He helped secure admission to the Association of American Universities in June by attracting a solid core of faculty and fostering research opportunities. Other notable accomplishments include diversifying the student body, ensuring continued financial stability and maintaining in-person education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Together with the remarkable leadership team he has assembled, he has devoted himself to advancing the University and its mission, fulfilling the promise he made when he was inaugurated—to work collaboratively to build a great Catholic university for the 21st century,” said John J. Brennan, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, according to a school statement.
Robert Clark – Husson University (Maine)
Following Jenkins is another longstanding president to retire. Robert Clark of Husson University is Maine’s longest-standing president among its four-year colleges and universities at 15 years, News Center Maine reports.
Motivated throughout his career to enhance students’ educational experience, Clark oversaw the construction of several key facilities like the Harold Alfond Hall, Darling Learning Center, and Wellness Learning Center.
“I still get an emotion of positivity when I see those students and their smiles on commencement day,” Clark said.
Clark’s accomplishments have gained the notice of State Senator Susan Collins, who praised his leadership and guidance in continually advancing the university.
Clark primarily plans to travel and spend time with his family in retirement, as well as reflect on his contributions to Husson.
Anne Houtman – Earlham College (Ind.)
Earlham College’s 20th president and first female leader, Anne Houtman, has announced her retirement from Earlham College at the end of the current academic year, concluding a four-year run.
Her tenure at Earlham was marked by fundraising initiatives that raised around $85 million, the implementation of new scholarships and the introduction of several highly sought majors, including accounting, engineering and data science. She also oversaw the addition of a softball program and the construction of its home stadium.
After retiring, Houtman plans to remain in the Richmond area and resume scholarly projects she had put on hold during her presidency.
Houtman previously served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Alexander Whitaker – King University (Tenn.)
Alexander Whitaker announced he would be stepping down as president of King University at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, concluding an eight-year tenure marked by impressive institutional turnarounds, campus renovations and popular policies.
After assuming the presidency in 2016, one of Whitaker’s most notable actions was reaffirming the university’s accreditation. Additionally, amid the country’s shortage of qualified nurses, he helped revamp King’s nursing program, showering labs with renovated and advanced equipment. Improvements to campus infrastructure were widespread during his tenure. Whitakers oversaw upgrades and restorations to a dining hall, admissions center, residence halls and historic walkways around the school, WVXU reports.
Like Jenkins from the University of Notre Dame, Whitaker has advocated for stronger policies on free speech and civil discourse, due partly to both institution’s dedication to their respective Catholic and Christian bedrocks.
King’s community must have held Whitaker in high regard, for the Christian university received its largest individual alumni gift and unrestricted financial gift in its 157-year history.
Whitaker is a retired Navy captain who served for 25 years and was previously chief of staff at Berry College (Ga.).