April 14, 2011
President prepares for retirement; praises SRU programs
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – By this time next year, Robert Smith, Slippery Rock University president, and his wife, Ramona, expect to be settling into a new home in Franklin, Tenn. Smith announced his intent to retire in January at Tuesday’s Academic Assembly.
“Serving as your president has been an extraordinary personal privilege and the most rewarding experience of my professional life. Thank you for allowing me to travel along with you,” Smith said.
The assembly-ending announcement was followed by a simultaneous standing ovation in Swope Music Hall from, faculty, staff and students in attendance.
Smith said by announcing his retirement plans early, he would still have time to complete several pending projects and simultaneously give the University time to conduct a national search for his replacement.
He said he had decided to return to Tennessee because he enjoyed his previous time there. His daughter, Angela, lives in Franklin, Tenn., and his son, David, lives in Knoxville, Tenn.
“I have asked the chancellor and Mr. Josh Young, chair of the Council of Trustees to guarantee that you select someone who will appreciate the extraordinary employees and students we have at SRU,” he said. “Every day I have had the honor to work with a phenomenal collaboration of high-achieving people dedicated to elevating this University to greatness. More than anything else during this journey, Ramona and I will value the friendships we have had, not only on campus, but throughout the community, country and region.”
Smith said, “In 2003 we said that we needed to prepare the campus for the next president. We said then we wanted to conquer our issues and present ourselves as a place sought after nationally by candidates for the presidency. Now it is time to prepare again for someone who can build on what you have done and advance Slippery Rock University to its next level of extraordinary performance.”
“We have come a long way together in this journey to establish a truly outstanding center for learning. We have moved from questioning our role in the higher education community to an expectation of greatness. I sense a confidence through our community that you can overcome any challenge and that you are capable of being among the best student-centered higher education institutions in the nation,” he said.
He said he deferred his retirement until January so that he would be available “to stabilize the current budget crises so that Slippery Rock University remains on solid financial footing; assist in reaching successful contract agreements with our collective bargaining groups through the next four years; and help prepare our University to be an attractive place for the best qualified candidates for his presidency.”
Smith joined SRU in 1999 as provost and vice president for academic affairs. He was named interim president in 2002 and named the University’s 15th president in May 2004.
He received his bachelor's degree from Wichita State University, his master’s degree from Ohio University, and his doctorate in communication from Temple University.
As part of his assembly address, Smith announced that Kurt Schimmel, associate dean of the School of Business at Robert Morris University, had been named the new dean of SRU’s College of Business, Information and Social Sciences; Kathleen Strickland, who had most recently served as interim dean of SRU’s College of Education had been named dean of the college; John Rindy, dean/director of Educational Outreach at Thiel College, had been named director of SRU’s Career Services; and Brad Wilson, SRU associate professor of philosophy had been named director of the SRU Honors Program.
The president used the assembly to deliver a “State of the University” report. “This address will be a celebration of another very successful year for all of us. I want us to continue with the celebration of our accomplishments,” he said.
He applauded those who aided the recent advocacy efforts in meeting with state legislators to discuss the impact of Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed 50 percent cut to higher education.
“We will protect our core mission. You can follow our progress and our thinking on the Web or Facebook through ROCK Nation, our advocacy army,” he said.
Smith praised the recent “Diversity and Democracy” programs “where hundreds of faculty, staff and students participated.” He congratulated the information technology staff for its work in upgrading the technology infrastructure, renovating the data center, installing a data backup system and replacing 86 networks switches.
He saluted the BANNER implementation team for its work in upgrading the University’s student information system. “More than 40,000 people hours over 18 months were involved in the migration of 138,000 student records and 3 million associated records from our legacy system to BANNER,” he said.” The new system went online just a day before the assembly and Smith said more than 2,000 students had already used it to schedule fall semester classes.
The president congratulated the Financial Aid Office in its transition to BANNER and for implementing new federal rules converting bank-based lending to 100 percent direct lending for SRU students.
Smith took time to once again praise the University’s efforts in preparing for the recent Middles States Commission on Higher Education visit and said he expected full reaccreditation for SRU.
He said nearly every building on campus had undergone renovation or construction in the last nine years as part of a transformation of the physical campus. The work was in addition to renovating or adding new student housing, new athletic facilities and a new facility for the SRU intramural program. Boozel Dining Hall was also renovated, Weisenfluh Dining Hall is scheduled for renovation and a new Student Center is under construction. “This was only possible through the work of an extraordinary facilities staff,” he said.
Smith also acknowledged the support of the Council of Trustees in advancing the position of the University and thanked SRU trustees Joshua Young, John Hicks, Eric Holmes and Brandon Maharaj for attending the event.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.