A Higher Woodpile

October, 2005

11-207On August 25—a week before classes began at Plymouth State this fall—I called an all-campus meetings so that I could talk to faculty and staff about a decision that Carol and I had come to after well over a year of thoughtful consideration. That decision, which I announced to the campus, was that I would retire as president of Plymouth State University at the end of this coming academic year; that is, on June 30, 2006. We will then make our home in Landaff, N.H.

This is a decision whose emotion for Carol and me pulled us in two directions. On the one hand we are excited about the next phase of our lives; on the other we are very sad to be leaving Plymouth State and all our friends and colleagues at the University. Overall, it feels bittersweet.

As I explained to the faculty and staff, three important elements came together to produce the decision for me. The first was my length of service to the University. At the end of this coming year I will have served PSU for 13 years (and, coincidentally, I am also the 13th president of the University—given that, “13” is a lucky number for me). Those 13 years are about twice the average length of stay for a college president these days; so, I could satisfy myself that I had given the job a good, long commitment.

The second consideration in the decision was the relative strength of the University as I was proposing to leave it. At the April 1993, Board of Trustees meeting, at which I was formally appointed as president, I promised the trustees and the campus that I would “leave the woodpile higher than I found it.” In my remarks on August 25, 2005, I wanted to give full credit to the campus community: “Whatever I have done about the height of the woodpile has been possible because of the wonderful work of the faculty, staff, students and alumni of this great University.” Because of those efforts, Plymouth State is today very strong and well-positioned competitively for the future.

The third consideration, which merged with these other two, was listening to my own inner voice about the right time to leave, an assessment of my own readiness to take on a new life after the presidency. By the summer of 2004 the inner voice had a consistent message: “It’s time.” So, in the fall of that year I approached Chancellor Reno and Chairman Lietz with a request that I retire at the end of the 2004-05 academic year. They both were kind enough to support my request if I chose to go forward with it, but they also both asked me to stay an additional year. They made the point that there was already a presidential search underway at Keene State College, and they also wanted me to continue some collaborative work with Granite State College and the New Hampshire Community Technical College at Berlin on North Country initiatives. After considering their request I did agree to remain the extra year, and in retrospect I am most happy that I did so. It was a great year for Plymouth State and one that Carol and I both personally enjoyed very much. The year also helped to solidify the decision that I subsequently announced in August of this year.

I ended my remarks to the faculty and staff with these thoughts, which I also want to share now with all our alumni and friends of Plymouth State:

I have been incredibly privileged and honored to be part of the Plymouth State University family. I could not have been more fortunate in my career or in my life than to have had this opportunity to work with such extraordinary colleagues in such a great institution as Plymouth State. I have been shaped far more by the people of the University than I have influenced Plymouth State. Plymouth State is indebted to me not at all, but I owe everything to it. I’m a very lucky man to have had this opportunity and this experience with you. I’ll always be profoundly grateful for it. I have counted my blessings-they are many, and they are “PSU.”

Donald P. Wharton, President

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