Sethna Announces Retirement to the Community

August 15, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

The birth, development and maturing of a university is not unlike the development of persons. This university was born as an infant junior college in the dark days of the Great Depression, and in its infancy it was led and nurtured by the vision and hard work of its legendary first president, Irvine S. Ingram, whose spirit on campus is felt today, and who is remembered with structures bearing his name. He was followed by ensuing presidents, who led that junior college through its infancy to a four-year college that granted its first degrees to the graduating class of 1958. I was privileged to be the last president of that West Georgia College, to become the first (and, fortunately – because that was not a name we cherished, the only) president of the State University of West Georgia, and to be the first president of this great institution, the University of West Georgia. In short, I have been privileged to be at the helm when the visions of Dr. Ingram and those who followed matured from dream to reality.

And now the time has come for me to step aside and both permit and assist the next leader as he or she builds on the solid foundation of growth and accomplishment that began with Dr. Ingram. Jointly, we will transfer to the next president, the reins of a vibrant and living university, not an institution grown static by past accomplishments. With the continued support of faculty, staff, alumni and community, this great university will through ensuing decades compound in value to the community, state, nation and world, as our most valuable asset – the enlightened minds of our youth – climbs the ladder of leadership. We will continue to educate students, and do exceptionally well at scholarly achievement, creative expression, and service to humanity. We are helping to build the America of the future, one individual at a time.

My intention is to retire from my position of President of the University of West Georgia at the end of FY 2013 (June 30, 2013). I intend to continue at UWG in my capacity as Professor of Business Administration.

This plan is happening at my request and on my requested time-line. Obviously, such a plan has to have approval of the Chancellor and Board. I approached the Chancellor with this plan some time ago, and I am grateful to him and the Board for supporting my request.

When I arrived at West Georgia, the prevailing opinion among many community leaders and some colleagues as well was that I would be here for a couple of years and move to a bigger, better and more prestigious place.

They were correct. I did.

Together we have created a bigger, better and more prestigious University and have come an amazing distance from the college of 1994. We have become a truly vibrant university, and can jointly take pride in our accomplishments in academics, student life, facilities, and sharing our story. A few months ago, Dr. John Ferling sent me a message saying, inter alia, “UWG has taken on a vibrancy that was never present a few years ago. It was a university in name only in 1996, but now it has become a real university.” I much appreciated his kind words and agreed with him. I thank him and I thank all of you for making this possible.

For a decision as complex and serious as this, there can never be only one reason. Indeed, there are several, only the top three professional reasons of which are listed below:

  1. For the past few years I have struggled with this question: For the good of the institution, regardless of the strengths or limitations of any individual, how healthy is it for one person to be at the helm for more than 10 years, 15 years, almost two decades? (Two tours of duty as interim Executive Vice Chancellor have helped, of course.) The most difficult years of an institution are said to be as it grows from 8,000 to 12,000 students – the equivalent of teenage years when the institution is changing (from a larger small college to a smaller large university) and there are more questions than answers, making the transition a difficult one. It has been my honor to lead UWG through this stage of its life.
  2. Our goal to be a Carnegie Doctoral Research University: This Summer (2012), I found out two things: (a) From all criteria published by Carnegie, we are there already: 20+ Doctoral Graduates; and (b) They will not look at these data or make new announcements until 2015 or later; they are only now starting conversations about the next cycle. I am honored to have led UWG to this level; personal ego might lead to remaining to accept that belated recognition, but I do not believe that to be in the best interests of the University.
  3. SACS Reaffirmation: At the time of the visit (April, 2014) and as we respond to any concerns that they may have, it is best to have a President in place who they know will be at the helm for a number of years to be able to provide SACS with the assurances they need. Since we will be reviewed as a Level VI University and will spend the rest of our lives as a Level VI University, we may wish to take that into account as well.

Of course, there are personal reasons as well.

I have worked at this job approximately 20x7x360, to the detriment of all other parts of my life. The time has come for me to realize that there actually exists a world outside of my UWG world. I particularly need to have my summers free (at least in large part) to do what I can for those less fortunate that we are. I intend to spend a substantial part of the summer working in an orphanage school called Balgram in India. For a few years, I have sponsored individual kids there and have visited them, but now I need to be able go there each Summer, and the plan is to live there in their spartan conditions, and teach them English and Science. Those who know me personally know that this has long been a promise to myself and a plan (the intent was to do this when I turned 60, but I’m way past that marker). Now, I am getting increasingly impatient with myself.

Next steps for us at UWG:

  1. Nothing changes for the next year. There is only one President at a time, and this is who you have. I am as engaged and passionate as I have always been. Make no mistake; you hear no quacking and see no lameness.
  2. My best estimate is that the Chancellor will start a search for the new President almost immediately. He and the Board are in charge.

Remember – we Go West to a world of unfettered opportunity. We are blazing trails to new possibilities for scholarly achievement, creative expression and service to humanity.

Let me end this letter as I have done many, many times in the last 18 years: Thank you for all you do!

Sincerely,

Beheruz

Beheruz N. Sethna, Ph.D., C.C.P.
Professor of Business Administration and President of the University