In a special message, Richard F. Wilson reflects on presidency and Illinois Wesleyan's
In making my retirement announcement in December, Pat and I found ourselves reflecting
on how quickly the last 11 years have gone by and how many wonderful people are now
part of our lives as a result of the experiences we have had at Illinois Wesleyan
University. What makes IWU special is the dedication of the faculty and staff, the
talent and enthusiasm of students who enroll, and the loyalty of alumni and friends.
This combination creates an environment in which lives are transformed, and we have
had front row seats to watch these transformations.
My decision to retire as president evolved slowly over the past year. Several major
projects that were important to me and to the University either had been completed
or were nearing completion, including the renewal of our accreditation by the Higher
Learning Commission; the adoption of IWU 2020, the University’s new strategic plan; and the successful conclusion of the Transforming Lives campaign. In addition, by the end of this year, we will have completed the transition
to a new enrollment and budgeting model, and the first phase of the strategic curricular
review that the faculty has underway will be completed.
Given all of this, it felt to us as though this was a good time for a transition,
providing my successor with an opportunity to be on the ground floor of conversations
about the direction of the University for the next decade. After working in leadership
and administrative roles for the past 41 years, I also must admit that I look forward
to having more time for personal interests and activities.
Recently, a reporter for the Argus student newspaper asked me to identify my fondest memories as president. The first
one was easy: the exhilaration I felt the day I learned I would be the 18th president
of the University. Not far behind was the excitement connected to the ten Commencement
ceremonies during my tenure. I calculate that I have handed a diploma to over 5,000
graduates, roughly 25 percent of all living alumni. After that, I would have to list
the response of alumni and friends to the Transforming Lives campaign, particularly the very generous financial support provided during a period
of economic uncertainty for endowed chairs and professorships, capital priorities,
and student scholarships. Finally, both Pat and I cherish the opportunities we have
had to meet with alumni around the country and hear their stories about their experiences
at IWU and the impact those experiences have had on their lives and careers. We always
came away from these conversations proud of what the University has accomplished in
the past and inspired to ensure that students of the future will have the same opportunities.
My announcement understandably turns attention to the future, but I certainly hope
we can make the remaining months of my tenure as productive as possible in terms of
work that still needs to be done. In addition, Pat and I plan to use the time to meet
with as many alumni and friends as possible to express our profound gratitude for
your help and encouragement over the past 10 years. Your continuing interest and support
have enabled the University to make good progress on a number of important priorities
during very turbulent times. We are indebted to you for your loyalty and grateful
to have had the opportunity to serve Illinois Wesleyan.