AU President Neil Kerwin announced on Monday morning that he will step down as the University president in May 2017.
He will step down on May 30 when his contract ends, after serving in his post for 12 years. According to a memorandum from Kerwin, the end of his term will come at an appropriate time for the University because it will mark the beginning of the last year of his strategic plan.
Additionally, it coincides with the end of the current phase of the campus plan with the completion of construction of new residence halls and academic buildings, the memo states.
The decision to leave his post in 2017 has been in the works for some time, according to Teresa Flannery, the vice president for Communications. According to Flannery, when Kerwin accepted a five year renewal of his contract with the University in 2012, it was with the intention that it would be his last.
“He feels pretty strongly that two terms is plenty for him and the University and that it’s good and healthy for new leadership and fresh ideas,” Flannery said.
Flannery also said that the decision to announce Kerwin’s departure was made now to give the Board of Trustees time to conduct a thorough national search for his replacement, a process which could take months and will include the use of an outside search firm.
In his memo, Kerwin thanked others in the University community for their support and hard work throughout his tenure.
“Words cannot properly convey the respect and gratitude I have for the people—faculty, staff, students, alumni, members of the President’s Council, and a dedicated and supportive Board—who made this remarkable institution what it is today,” Kerwin wrote in his memo.
After taking a sabbatical leave, Kerwin stated that he plans to return to the AU faculty.
Chair of the AU Board of Trustees Jack Cassell also sent out a memo to the University community, congratulating Kerwin on bringing transparency and accountability back to the administration. The memo included a list Kerwin’s greatest contributions to the University, including increasing the school’s academic rigor, the growing reputation of the school and creating greater financial stability for students.
“His steadfast insistence on effective planning, shaped by wide participation and linked to resource allocation, provided a roadmap for a university that is now measurably stronger in academic quality, financial position, facilities, and stature,” Cassell wrote in the memo.
Likewise, current Student Government Sasha Gilthorpe sent an email to the student body lauding the impact of Kerwin’s actions, especially as they benefitted students.
“Dr. Kerwin rose to the challenge of creating a more inclusive University, and met it,” Gilthorpe wrote in the email. “He took every opportunity to meet with students and crafted a plan that directly responded to the insights he gained from those conversations. Where universities across the nation have struggled to address issues of racism, Dr. Kerwin listened with empathy and has taken our community in a new direction.”
Kerwin was appointed as the interim president of the University in August 2005 when former AU President Benjamin Ladner was suspended and resigned due to questions raised about his personal and travel expenses, according to the Washingtonian. He later took over officially in September 2007.
In his memorandum, Cassell said that the Board of Trustees has already begun planning the search for the next University president. Next week, the Board will announce the search committee, led by past board chair Jeff Sine, and introduce the search firm to coordinate the search procedures.
“Neil Kerwin’s lasting impact on AU has been to elevate the university and advance areas vital to its continued progress,” Cassell said in press release from the University. “The Kerwin era will be remembered for a new level of academic and research rigor, a culture of tackling the great issues and a period of greater impact in the city of Washington DC, across the nation and around the world.”