The crowd was silent as Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba announced his retirement Aug. 19 during Fall Convocation, the annual state of the university address.
He plans to step down next year, but remain part of NKU.
“The timing for this transition could not be better. The university is strong and well positioned for the times in which we live,” Votruba said.
During the convocation, Votruba appeared at ease and content with his decision.
“And he did it without his voice cracking even once,” Board of Regents Chairman Terry Mann commented after Votruba made the announcement.
Votruba cited personal reasons for retiring, saying he and his wife Rachel wanted more “freedom and balance” in their lives.
After convocation, Votruba told reporters that he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren.
He said he plans to stay in Northern Kentucky, working as a professor of educational leadership in NKU’s doctorate program and remaining active in the community.
Mann outlined the process that will be used to choose a new president.
In the next “couple of weeks” a website will be launched for anyone to follow the process and keep up with announcements, Mann said.
Also, the members of the hiring committee will be assembled and the committee will begin selecting an outside firm to help with the search.
Mann said the committee will have 14 people, including four regents. Martin Butler, a former chairman of the Board of Regents, will chair the committee.
Mann stressed several times the search will not be “dominated” by the board, and the committee will accept input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, the NKU Foundation and the community at large.
However, Mann said information about potential candidates will be not be released publicly until the committee pares the list down to the finalists to protect their privacy.
In September and October, the committee will host open meetings to get input from the community for the vision for the university and what kind of characteristics they want in the new president.
They plan to announce the new president in March.
“Hopefully we can still progress on without him being here,” said Elise Edwards, a junior pre-nursing major.
Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple said he decided to join NKU in 2008 because of “where it was going.”
“You could tell he was a man that had great vision for where he wanted to take this university,” Waple said. “He has shown a real compassion and love for our students. It’s rare that you are on a college campus where the students are that closely connected to a president.”
Waple said Votruba hosts several events for students each year. For example, Waple said Votruba selects 10 students from student parent convocation to have dinner at his home. He also has an annual dinner for student leaders in the fall.
“That is just super-ultra cool,” Waple said.
Votruba, now in his 15th year as president, has been NKU’s longest-standing president.
“Obviously, Dr. Votruba has been a great asset to the university,” said Student Government Association President Dustin Robinson. “He has done more for the university than any of the past presidents. I don’t think I could say with any reservations that we would be where we are without his service. The next president has very large shoes to fill.”
From 1997 to 2010, the student population grew from 11,785 to 15,748. The university has added 19 bachelor’s programs and 42 master’s programs since Votruba became president.
“We always talk about athletes leaving at the top of their game, and he’s leaving on the top of his game,” Waple said.
Also in Fall Convocation, Votruba dicussed changes that will be made to the university this year.
His plans include announcing a conference selection in Division I sports, the construction of a new health innovations center and the design of a new recreation center.
Votruba reassured the university that the move to Division I will not interfere with the current core values of the university.
“The times require that we spend this year further focusing and integrating our campus priorities, as well as attending to both strategy and execution,” Votruba said.