OLIVER: ‘IT’S TIME’
After 11 years as president and 25 years of involvement with the school, Augustana University President Rob Oliver announced that this academic year will be his last.
Oliver revealed his intentions Monday afternoon before more than 100 faculty and staff, saying “There’s never an easy time to leave, but the time does come.”
Oliver said that his recent grandfatherhood convinced him and his wife, Angela, that the time to exit was now.
“It’s time to, I think, spend time with family and have a little more flexibility in our schedule,” he said, Tuesday. “Angie and I want to travel, and we have places and people to see. Who knows how many more years of good health one has?”
In the meantime, he will continue serving until July 31, 2017. Between now and then, his goals include continuing the positive enrollment momentum and planning for more new buildings, including a second Summit apartment complex and the Student Activities Center.
A national search to find his successor is already underway. Members of a search firm arrived on campus Thursday.
Oliver said he will be mostly detached from the hiring process for the first time in a while, and that he must “begin a process of letting go.”
“I’ve been through it myself when I went through the search process, and when I was on the Board [of Trustees],” he said. His role will be “to help answer questions … if they need answers about the presidency or about Augustana, I’m happy to do that.”
Augustana’s faculty and staff kicked off Oliver’s departure process with a standing ovation that lasted more than a minute at the end of his announcement Monday.
Reflections on Oliver’s presidency included mostly glowing reviews.
“Rob held the fourth longest tenure of Augustana’s 23 presidents, having served for 11 years,” said Bob Preloger, vice president for advancement. “He will be considered among the best—if not the best—in our history, in my mind.”
Oliver said the reaction has been affirming, but it will still be difficult to say goodbye.
“This is a place that grabs a hold of your heart,” he said. “To imagine that one day I will walk out of this office and not come back, that’s kind of hard.”
When asked, he listed a number of things he’s most proud of from his tenure: renovating buildings like the Mikkelsen Library and building new ones like the Froiland Science Complex. He also cited programmatic changes.
He said he will not miss certain burdens of responsibility. The Augustana community expressed that he handled those burdens quite well.
“Every decision he made had the potential to affect someone personally, and he took a ‘people-first’ approach to all that he did for us at Augustana,” Dean of Students Jim Bies said. “He role modeled the importance of thinking big about the future of our university.”
Biology professor Paul Egland said much of the same.
“What I’ll remember most is how he imparted a sense of hope during tough times,” Egland said. “There have been so many times that I was glad that Augustana has Rob Oliver as president.”
Oliver said he was blessed and thankful that he was allowed to serve as president.
“I just, I want students to know what a blessing, what a privilege it’s been to be here, and to be among students,” he said.