G. David Gearhart, chancellor of the University of Arkansas, will announce today his plans to retire as leader of the flagship UA campus.
He will return to a faculty position. I don’t have details yet on the financial terms of the change, if any. He’s staying through July 31, which allows time for a job search.
He’ll likely say a desire to return to teaching and family led to the decision.
UPDATE:The retirement has officially been announced. I’ve now received copies of Gearhart’s retirement letter, effective July 31, to UA System President Donald Bobbitt and Bobbitt’s letter of response.
The UA compiled an extensive news release on Gearhart’s plans to retire and a recitation of his accomplishments, along with laudatory comments from trustees. It is in full on the jump.
Inevitably, the news will include his split with University of Arkansas System leadership — President Donald Bobbitt and the Board of Trustees — over the System’s move into the eVersity.
The Fayetteville campus resisted providing a loan for startup costs of the program, but the Board of Trustees insisted. Members of the Board weren’t pleased, either, when the day of a planning session on the eVersity that the UA campus in Fayetteville rolled out a major advertising effort on its own on-line courses.
Gearhart also endured some controversy with the legislature over a deficit in the university advancement division.
More recently, I’d been informed members of the Board weren’t too happy to see they weren’t on the guest list for those entertained by Gearhart in his sky box at the Texas Bowl, in which the UA defeated Texas. I learned through an FOI request at the time that the seven UA board members got seats for the game on the goal line.
A reader notes, as I should have, how Gearhart inflamed legislative bigots by expressing opposition to the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s decision to oppose a civil rights ordinance that included housing, employment and public accommodation protection for LGBT people. Legislators had threatened financial retaliation against the campus. Another plus on his record was advocacy for immigrants, not exactly a popular cause with many legislators.
Gearhart, 62, became chancellor in 2008 after 10 years in charge of university advancement.
PS: In my haste, I didn’t notice what autocorrect had done to a misspelling in my original lead. I didn’t mean to cast this news as a “reform,” as the original version had it, but rather as a “rumor” confirmed by sources.
PPS — In other Gearhart family news, the UA campus announced today that his brother Jeffrey Gearhart and wife Lisa had given $200,000 to establish an endowment to advance diversity in the legal profession. Jeffrey Gearhart is a Walmart executive. The money will go to scholarships to attract “underdeveloped communities” to the law school in Fayetteville. This sort of affirmative action is another thing not highly in favor at the Arkansas legislature, I can’t help but note.
UPDATE: Also at the end of the jump, comments from UA officials:
UA NEWS RELEASE
U of A Chancellor Gearhart to Retire in July
Family cited as chief reason for timing; will return to the classroom
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After 20 years of service to the University of Arkansas, in which he guided the institution through an unprecedented period of growth, G. David Gearhart will step down as chancellor on July 31.
“I have four main reasons for making this difficult decision,” the chancellor wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to UA System President Don Bobbitt. “They are our four grandchildren: Ben, age 5; Caroline, age 4; Ellie, almost 2; and soon to be born, Lily Jane. Going forward, I hope to spend more quality time with each of them as well as with our children and their spouses, Katy and Justin and Brock and Lindsey.”
Gearhart became the fifth chancellor of the University of Arkansas on July 1, 2008, following 10 years of service to the university as vice chancellor for University Advancement. He previously served at the university as three years as director of development in early 1980s. As vice chancellor, he led the University of Arkansas in the largest fundraising endeavor ever undertaken by an organization in Arkansas, the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, which raised $1.046 billion for academic programs. That campaign included the largest single gift to an American public institution of higher education, a record-setting $300 million gift to found an Honors College and endow the Graduate School and a $50 million gift to endow the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
After stepping down from the chancellor’s post, Gearhart plans to take a period time off, and then continue teaching. He is a member of the faculty of the College of Education and Health Professions.
Previously he served as senior vice president and managing director of the international consulting firm Grenzebach Glier & Associates Inc. Before his service at GG&A, Gearhart was senior vice president of Penn State University, during which time he was named a Fulbright Scholar, studying at Oxford University in Oxford, England.
His Bachelor of Arts degree is from Westminster College where he was named a distinguished alumnus in 1992. Both his law degree and his Doctor of Education degree are from the University of Arkansas. He is a native of Fayetteville.
As chancellor, Gearhart instituted the first tuition freeze in 24 years and implemented a $400 million campus building renovation and refurbishment plan of academic and athletic facilities, as well as a campus-wide energy savings plan. He has also undertaken a renewed emphasis on the arts on campus, including the establishment of the “All Steinway Campus” and the Jim and Joyce Faulkner Center for the Performing Arts, scheduled to open in 2015. He is well known for his emphasis on “Students First,” a philosophy which has resonated across campus and beyond.
In 2010, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching placed the university in its highest research classification; in August 2011, the Chronicle of Higher Education named the University of Arkansas on its list of “Great Colleges to Work For”; and recently, U.S. News and World Report recognized the university as being among nine public institutions that were “up-and-comers,” while the Chronicle of Higher Education recognized the university as the seventh-fastest growing public research institution in the country. The chancellor has been a staunch supporter of promoting the University of Arkansas for its ability to contribute to Arkansas as a knowledge-based economy; the university’s contributions – from educational, cultural and economic to the local, national and international communities – have reached unprecedented levels, in addition to the estimated $1 billion economic impact on Arkansas.
He has been a supporter of immigration reform, and the DREAM Act. Greek membership during Gearhart’s tenure has exceeded expectations both for men and women, reaching an all-time high of 5,400 members. Five new fraternities and sororities have joined the campus at this time.
“The most difficult part of this transition will be giving up my daily contact with our superb faculty and staff, extraordinary students, loyal and generous alumni and benefactors and campaign volunteers,” Gearhart continued in his letter. “We have a tremendous team at the University of Arkansas, and that team has made these past 17 years, 10 as vice chancellor, and seven as chancellor, both exciting and memorable.”
Gearhart’s wife of 40 years, Jane, is also an active figure on campus, having devoted much time and leadership to the university, most notably to causes such as the Full Circle Campus Food Pantry, which was featured on NBC Nightly News in March 2013.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the commitment my dear wife, Jane, has given the university every step of the way,” Gearhart wrote. “The hundreds if not thousands of events she has planned and attended, not to mention her deep involvement in the Northwest Arkansas community and the incredible support she has afforded so many people, all on her own time, is simply breathtaking. Jane has been an amazing partner in this venture.
“I would like to express to members of the Board of Trustees that it has been my absolute privilege to serve as the chancellor of the flagship campus,” Gearhart said. “I never applied for the position nor sought it, but had the good fortune to be tapped for the honor by then-President B. Alan Sugg and then-Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the late Stanley Reed.”
“I was initially surprised by Dr. Gearhart’s decision, but after talking to him and learning that his reason to opt for retirement included his desire to spend more time with his growing family, I understood and supported his plans,” said UA System President Donald Bobbitt. “There never is a good time to make these decisions, but the University of Arkansas is in a very strong position with record enrollments, a strong research portfolio and nationally recognized student achievement.
“Chancellor Gearhart and his wife, Jane, have approached this position as a team and it became very clear to me upon my return as president that they viewed this honor as a calling and not a job. Mrs. Gearhart has supported the institution in so many ways it is impossible to thank her for all she has done. I hope we will be able to find a way to do so in the months ahead. Dr. Gearhart will leave an indelible mark on the institution through his 20 years of service. I join the many others who wish him much success and thank him for his many contributions to the University of Arkansas and higher education in the state.”
“I plan to proceed deliberately but aggressively with plans to identify the next chancellor for the University of Arkansas through a national search. Given the strong position of the institution, its Top 50 national research university aspirations and the statewide support it garners, I know this will be a much sought-after position. I look forward to working with campus administrative and faculty leaders, the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees and other stakeholders to name the next chancellor,” Bobbitt said.
Key Accomplishments 2008-2015
University of Arkansas enrollment tops 26,200 for the 2014-15 academic year, a 37 percent increase since 2008.
Six-year graduation rates reach 62.3 percent in 2014, the highest in the state among public institutions, and highest in the U of A’s history.
Since 2008, we’ve seen a 43 percent increase in the number of incoming students with an ACT of 30 or higher, and a 60 percent increase in the number of students with GPAs of 3.75 or above.
While growing in size and in academic quality, the diversity of campus has increased by more than 80 percent since 2008.
The greatest single area of enrollment growth in 2014 is in online enrollment with 7,444 students taking at least one online class during the fall 2014 semester, a 506 percent increase since 2008.
Added 300 faculty in the past five years to meet student growth needs.
University of Arkansas elevated to the highest possible classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching during its last reclassification of the nation’s 4,633 universities and colleges. The University of Arkansas is one of just 108 schools with this distinction, bestowed for increased accomplishments in research and productivity.
Initiated first tuition freeze in 24 years for the 2009-10 academic year.
Implemented a set of 15 institutional goals under the heading of Providing Transparency & Accountability to the People of Arkansas, a triennial report chronicling progress toward goals.
Created the first Commission on Women, a 12-panel advisory board focusing on issues such as work/family balance, mentoring among faculty and staff, campus safety and environment and other issues that may have an impact on women.
During Gearhart’s tenure went from $119 million to $920.6 million.
Research expenditures reached $120.4 million, up from $113.8 million in 2008. Research expenditures have exceeded $120 million for the fourth year in a row.
Annual fundraising surpasses $100 million for four consecutive years, with $113.3 million raised in fiscal year 2014.
Oversaw the expansion, renovation, or addition of more than 1.5 million square feet to our campus space, an investment of approximately half a billion dollars.
Among the first institutions in the country to submit a long-range Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus to zero by the year 2040 in response to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.
Established Commission on Affordability and Cost Containment, which led to more than $62 million in savings and containment over a period of three years.
Recognized as a Military Friendly university in the Guide to Military Friendly Schools every year for the past six years.
Made progress in increasing salaries for assistant professors to move them 3.6 percent above the university’s peer public institutions in the Southeastern Conference.
More than 800 students will study abroad this year in more than 42 countries.
Gearhart was one of the first 50 signatories on the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security, an historic effort by universities declaring their commitment toward fighting global hunger.
Recognized by the Arkansas Chapter of ALPFA with its “Lideres Corazon (Leaders of the Heart) Higher Education Award,” for his support of the Latino community in Arkansas.
In 2008, when Gearhart began his tenure as chancellor, university reserves were approximately $2 million. At the beginning of fiscal year 2014 began with reserves of $50 million.
Tuition remains lower than at many institutions not only in the SEC, but in the nation, and the university is consistently ranked as a “Best Bargain” in higher education.
Chancellor Gearhart was invited to the White House in 2014 to participate in the president’s College Opportunity Summit.
Quotes about Chancellor Gearhart
“I have seen a remarkable transformation in the academic reputation and physical facilities of the University of Arkansas during my 10 years of service on the UA Board of Trustees, the last seven of which overlapped with Dr. Gearhart’s term as chancellor. The institution has grown in numerous ways including enrollment, quality and diversity of the undergraduate student body, and the construction and renewal of many academic and athletic facilities into state-of-the-art status. Dr. Gearhart has placed the institution on a solid upward trajectory and it is exciting to consider what the future will be given this progress. The UA System Board of Trustees appreciates Dr. and Mrs. Gearhart’s many contributions and we wish them much success as they enter this next phase of their lives, knowing they will always be an important part of the Razorback family.”
Jim von Gremp, of Rogers, is chairman the UA Board of Trustees, a real estate investor, communications consultant and former Wal-Mart executive.
“Dave’s leadership as vice chancellor for advancement and chancellor has been impeccable. He has worked hard to bring our University to new heights with the tremendous increase in enrollment all the while increasing the number of students with a GPA of 3.75 or above. And, most importantly, under his leadership and guidance the graduation rate has increased. No small feat! His and Jane’s dedication to the University of Arkansas and the state of Arkansas has been exemplary. Dave’s leadership is going to be missed by all. It is with much respect and sadness that I accept his desire to spend more time with his family and step down as chancellor,”
Jane Rogers of Little Rock is secretary of the UA Board of Trustees and a freelance organizational consultant. She has served as executive director of Riverfest, Inc., and the Department of Arkansas Heritage. She is a UA alumna.
“Dave Gearhart has been a fabulous leader for the University of Arkansas. Whether working as the chief development officer or the chancellor, he’s been highly successful by any measurement. It’s a tremendous loss for the U of A and a loss to lose Jane as the first lady. The university has had a number of years of remarkable progress with chancellors like Dan Ferritor, John White, and Dave Gearhart. I am confident that the Board of Trustees will do everything in its power to find someone to continue this tradition of excellence.”
B. Alan Sugg, retired UA System President
“What an honor it has been to have been selected for my position by the gentleman who literally wrote the book on fundraising. Not a day has gone by since becoming vice chancellor for university advancement that I haven’t learned something valuable from Dave’s leadership. His humor, perseverance, humility and above all, his love for the U of A are inspirational. While I hate to see him go, I am delighted for the entire Gearhart family. As we enter into this next phase of the life of the University of Arkansas, the good news, is that we have strongly established the foundation for our fundraising and advancement efforts.”
Chris Wyrick, Vice Chancellor for University Advancement
“Chancellor Gearhart has been committed to diversity in all of the ways that matter. Not only has he rhetorically supported issues and policies that expand access and equal opportunity, the chancellor has also better aligned university resources to reflect his commitment to achieving a more diverse and inclusive university community. I will forever be grateful to have been a part of his administrative team. His leadership has allowed us to make historic accomplishments relative to diversity on this campus.”
Charles Robinson, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community
“Chancellor Gearhart is not only an amazing leader but a fundraising icon. When he asked me to serve as treasurer for the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, I could see he was ambitious. Indeed, he brought a new level of understanding not only to the volunteers and the campus faculty and staff for what could be possible – he raised the bar and the expectation for what could make the University of Arkansas successful. We made supporting the university a priority because we were able to see significant private gift support would ultimately transform the school and the state, and we knew the goals were attainable with Dave leading the fundraising.”
Johnelle Hunt, philanthropist and longtime UA volunteer. J.B. and Johnelle Hunt provided a $5 million gift that pushed the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century past its $900 million goal. The campaign goal was subsequently raised to $1 billion.
“I have known and worked with Dave and Jane since they came to the University, and I don’t know of anyone who has worked harder for the development of a University than these two. They were instrumental in the most successful fundraising effort to date in raising over $1 billion for the University of Arkansas. Since his elevation to Chancellor our school now enjoys the highest rankings in its history among several colleges and for the University as a whole. David Gearhart is certainly one of the very best chancellors of a major university in the country and will be very difficult to replace. I wish he and Jane the very best as they take a well-deserved break from the position of Chancellor of the University of Arkansas.”
Reynie Rutledge, of Searcy, is a member of the UA Board of Trustees, UA alumnus, chairman and CEO of First Security Bank. He has served on the Sam M. Walton College of Business Executive Advisory Board and was recognized with the Chancellor’s Medal for distinguished service to his alma mater.
“The vision and extraordinary leadership of Dave Gearhart has been integral in the continued growth and development of the University of Arkansas in both enrollment and national reputation. His tireless efforts on behalf of our students has transformed our institution and positively impacted our entire state. His unwavering support of our intercollegiate athletics program and the more than 460 student-athletes who compete as Razorbacks, has allowed us to field one of the most successful athletics programs in the nation.
“I will forever be grateful to Chancellor Gearhart for his role in helping bring me to the University of Arkansas. I look forward to working alongside him in the remainder of his tenure as Chancellor and want to wish him, his wife Jane and the entire Gearhart family the very best in his upcoming retirement.”
Jeff Long, vice chancellor for athletics and Arkansas director of athletics
“I’d like to thank Chancellor Gearhart for all he has done for the University. We have made tremendous progress under his leadership and he will be sorely missed. On behalf of the faculty, we have greatly appreciated not only the respect he has demonstrated for us, but that you have included us as active partners in the growth of this campus. Both he and Jane have been such gracious hosts and effective advocates for the university. This campus is a much better place because of both of them.”
John Rupe, professor of plant pathology in Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences, chair of the Campus Senate
UPDATE FROM UA SYSTEM OFFICE
Don Bobbitt, president of the UA System
“I was initially surprised by Dr. Gearhart’s decision, but after talking to him and learning that his reason to opt for retirement was to spend more time with his growing family, I understood and supported his plans. There never is a good time to make these decisions, but the University of Arkansas is in a very strong position with record enrollments, a strong research portfolio and nationally recognized student achievement. The institution is also in the early stages of a campaign and I feel it is better to make a change at this point than at the latter stages of a
fundraising effort. I am sure Dr. Gearhart factored this into his decision.”
“Chancellor Gearhart and his wife, Jane, have approached this position as a team and it became very clear to me upon my return as president that they viewed this honor as a calling and not a job. Mrs. Gearhart has supported the institution in so many ways it is impossible to thank her for all she has done; I hope we will be able to find a way to do so in the months ahead. Dr. Gearhart will leave an indelible mark on the institution through his 17 years of service. In this next phase of his career it is his students who will benefit from the extensive higher education experience he will bring to the classroom. I join the many others who wish him much success and thank him for his many contributions to the University of Arkansas and higher education in the State.”
“I plan to proceed deliberately but aggressively with plans to identify the next chancellor for the University of Arkansas through a national search. Given the strong position of the institution, its Top 50 national research university aspirations and the statewide support it garners, I know this will be a much sought-after position. I look forward to working with campus administrative and faculty leaders, the University Of Arkansas System Board Of Trustees and other stakeholders to name the next Chancellor.”
Jim von Gremp, chairman of the UA System Board of Trustees
“I have seen a remarkable transformation in the academic reputation and physical facilities of the University of Arkansas during my 10 years of service on the UA Board of Trustees, the last seven of which overlapped with Dr. Gearhart’s term as Chancellor. The institution has grown in numerous ways including enrollment, quality and diversity of the undergraduate student body, and the construction and renewal of many academic and athletic facilities into state-of-the-art status. Dr. Gearhart has placed the institution on a solid upward trajectory and it is exciting to consider what the future will be given this progress. The UA System Board of Trustees appreciate Dr. and Mrs. Gearhart’s many contributions and we wish them much success as they enter this next phase of their lives, knowing they will always be an important part of the Razorback family.”