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My retirement plans

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This morning I announced to the Board of Trustees that I will retire as North Central College’s president at the end of this calendar year.  At that time, I will have completed nearly 22 years in the best job I could have ever asked for. To be a part of this great institution for so long, to live on campus, to become friends with hundreds—thousands!—of students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and community supporters has been a rare privilege.

For more than half of Benna’s and my married life, this campus has been home. Our daughters were married here, with receptions on the lawn of the President’s House. All our children—and now, grandchildren—have played in Merner Field House and the Res/Rec Center. My mother’s memorial service was in Koten Chapel. Over 21 years, the rhythm of our lives has been built around student choir concerts, plays, athletic events and pizza parties, and faculty, alumni and trustee gatherings. We have experienced the extraordinary joy of watching young men and women arrive on campus for the first time, grow up, move on, and now, send us their children. And, in turn, we have had the great privilege of working with a deeply dedicated Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, the majority of whom have joined the College since my arrival, to strengthen and transform a venerable institution. From food service and maintenance staff members to our wonderful housekeeper, my able assistant and faculty, staff, trustee and cabinet colleagues—in all, a cast of hundreds—there have always been generous and talented people to make me look good. There are many moments in the past two decades when I would have paid for the privilege of serving as North Central’s ninth president.

But none of us is immortal. The most important lesson I’ve learned at North Central College is that the institution is much bigger than any of us. Two years ago when I turned 65, I told the Board that I wanted to take the College through its Sesquicentennial—and the fundraising associated with it—and then retire. Since that time—and more intensively over the past few months—Board Chair Steve Hoeft ’73 has worked to insure that the transition to new leadership takes place with no loss of institutional momentum and with the full involvement of the campus community. The timing of this announcement, more than 10 months before I will officially retire, is related to that concern. In a follow-up memo today, Chairman Hoeft will outline the framework to provide for a transparent and successful search process.

I should not—and will not—be part of that process, but rest assured I will be an active president until the day I retire, telling the “old man story” at this year’s Commencement, standing at the top of Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium to cheer on the Cardinal football team this fall, visiting alumni throughout the nation and working as hard as I can every day until December 31 to achieve the goals of the Sesquicentennial Capital Campaign. And that as I move on to spend more time with my wife, children and grandchildren, and take on some volunteer responsibilities, this is, and always will be, the school we love, and a community of which we feel privileged to be a part. We are in all of your debt ... and will be forever grateful to the North Central family.

Hal