Simpson College President John Byrd has announced that he will retire at the end of the 2012-13 academic year, saying the time is right professionally and personally.
President Byrd notified a committee of the college’s Board of Trustees of his decision, then informed students, faculty and staff members.
Byrd, who turns 63 this week, is Simpson’s 22nd president. He and his wife, Nancy, joined the campus community in the summer before the 2005-06 academic year.
“In thinking about when to retire and, more importantly, about the right timing for Simpson, I concluded that with a number of projects coming to fruition it was the right time for a transition of leadership,” he said.
Fred Hubbell, chairman of Simpson’s board of trustees, praised Byrd’s leadership.
“He has done an excellent job as president of the college,” Hubbell said. “We fully understand his desire to pursue something different at this point in his life, while at the same time we will miss his strong leadership and guidance.
“Even the timing of his announcement points to his dedication to Simpson. By announcing his plans prior to the end of the academic year, he has allowed us to begin the search process while students and faculty are still on campus. We thank John for working cooperatively with us in that way.”
President Byrd’s tenure has included many successful initiatives, including a new curriculum that has received national recognition.
The look of the historic, 151-year-old private college has also changed. Under President Byrd’s leadership, the college is expected to hold the grand opening this fall of the $14 million Kent Campus Center. The Blank Performing Arts Center was expanded, and plans are underway for an improved fitness center.“What I’m proudest of is what we’ve all done together,” he said. “All of those have been major projects, and I feel I’ve been involved in helping move Simpson forward in very positive ways.”
Fred Jones, a professor of sociology and criminal justice who has taught at Simpson more than 40 years, described Byrd as “one of the most exceptional presidents Simpson has had.”
“Not only has he upgraded the physical plant, but he has also generated a sense of optimism for the future,” Jones added. “He is able to see advantages and opportunities in disadvantageous circumstances and Simpson has benefitted because of that ability.”
Jones noted the creation of the Iowa History Center, the Culver Public Policy Center and the Simpson Urban Studies Institute, all of which occurred during President Byrd’s tenure.
“I suspect that the years ahead will reveal the full significance of John’s years at Simpson,” he said. “He has set many things in motion here that will positively benefit students and faculty in the years to come.”
President Byrd’s commitment to the College extended to calling each admitted student to Simpson and encouraging them to enroll.
“He has brought a lot of creativity and new ideas to Simpson for the recruiting process,” Hubbell said. “With the pool of high school students in Iowa declining, he has implemented ways to maximize student recruitment in Iowa, while at the same time increase out-of-state enrollment and minority enrollment, which enriches the campus environment even more.”
In addition, Hubbell said President Byrd has done “an excellent job of fiscally managing the college during his tenure, adding to a continued 30 consecutive years of a balanced budget.”
While President Byrd said the decision felt right to him, it wasn’t easy.
“This has been an extraordinary opportunity for Nancy and me, both professionally and personally,” he said. “There’s never been any doubt about my great affection for Simpson and this community.”
The search for Simpson’s next president will begin immediately. A search committee consisting of seven members of the board of trustees, three faculty members and two students will hold their first meeting later this month.
President Byrd said his successor will discover a dynamic environment that is poised for future growth.
“There are just so many, many positive things happening here,” he said. “It would be an attractive opportunity for anyone.”
Prior to Simpson, Byrd served as the executive vice president at the University of Evansville since the fall of 2001 and held various appointments at Evansville from 1978 to 1995. From 1995 to 2001, he served as vice president for student affairs and professor of education at the University of Southern Indiana.
He holds a Ph.D. in health education from Southern Illinois, and a master of education and bachelor degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
“We will be sorry to see John go, but he will leave Simpson in a very strong position for his successor,” Hubbell said. “Enrollment is on track to be one of the strongest years ever, the facilities have never been stronger, and the innovative curriculum at Simpson continues to get national recognition.”