Ann Weaver Hart made an announcement last week indicating her resignation.
As the weekend drew near Friday afternoon, students and faculty received unexpected word that President Ann Weaver Hart will be stepping down from her post at the end of this year.
Effective June 30, 2012, Hart will surrender her title to the university’s yet-to-be-named 10th president, the search for whom is said to begin immediately.
Hart, Temple’s first female president, is on a year-to-year contract with the university.
“That was part of our contract from the very beginning,” Hart said.
In both a letter to the faculty and a phone conference with The Temple News, Hart cited the declining health of her mother in Salt Lake City and her accomplishments at the university thus far as reasons for leaving office.
“I just felt like it’s a good personal and professional time for a transition,” Hart said. “I began to talk about it with my family this summer, and decided soon after I returned from vacation.”
Hart said it makes sense for a new president to be ushered in at a time when new initiatives, such as a new fundraising campaign, are in the forecast.
“I’m disappointed for sure. She’s a terrific person to work with and has done a great deal for Temple and we’ll miss her,” David Unruh, senior vice president for institutional advancement, said. “But I appreciate and respect her decision, given the dynamics she’s dealing with on a personal level and the realities and expectations of the president’s role here.”
Although Hart will no longer lead the university, two of her championed initiatives, still in their prime, will continue to navigate and define the university in the near future.
The Academic Strategic Compass, a five-year plan for the university, which aims to improve upon areas such as graduation rates, increased financial aid and research, will continue to guide Temple through 2014.
Another, perhaps more prominent, blueprint laid out under Hart’s presidency is the 20/20 plan, a comprehensive plan to reface Main Campus without extending into the community.
Hart said she doesn’t believe leaving will jeopardize the university’s commitment to the 20/20 plan.
“I think that the special appropriation that Governor [Tom] Corbett has approved to lay the groundwork for $50 million for the library project, and the tremendous addition to the quality of academic space and to student recreation space we’ve been able to achieve has really gotten a lot of positive attention and praise from the whole city and has really improved Temple’s life,” Hart said. “I anticipate there will remain a strong commitment.”
The appropriation made for the library project has not yet been announced by the university or by the state. Hart said she looks forward to a formal announcement in the near future.
“She has done a great job laying out the foundation for the 20/20 plan framework,” Richard Englert, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said. “She has moved everything along so that things are going to happen.”
Anthony Wagner, executive vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of the university, said that when he interviewed for his position, six months into Hart’s presidency, she had a “clear vision of the challenges and the opportunities the university faces.”
“I think her leadership has made all the difference in weathering some pretty difficult times,” Wagner said. “I think that she felt strongly that given all the different things that are being worked on right now, especially with the implementation of both the Academic Strategic Compass and the Temple 20/20 [plan] framework.”
Under Hart, the university has seen improvements across the academic spectrum, such as requiring higher average SAT scores and grade point averages for incoming students.
In 2009, a fundraising campaign raised more than $380 million, above the original goal of $300 million.
“Just look at the transformation that’s come to Temple,” said Temple Student Government Student Body President Colin Saltry, reflecting on Hart’s tenure.
Saltry said he “thought something was up” regarding Hart’s status.
“But we were still a little surprised about the news,” Saltry said, noting that Hart had called him shortly before the public announcement.
“[Hart] was a little bit emotional over the phone,” Saltry added. “She said we’re going to have a great year and she wanted to get this out of the way now. She’s optimistic, but you could tell she’s broken up about it.”
Saltry said he hopes TSG and students will play a vital role in finding Hart’s replacement.
Sophomore engineering major Sarah Ali said she was “shocked” by the announcement, which she learned of by speaking to The Temple News.
“I wish I had heard about it,” Ali said.
A recipient of the university’s new 20/20 Scholarship program, which will provide 250 local youth with $5,000 scholarships over the next decade, Naisha Gonzalez recently joined Temple’s community.
“I thought I was special and [was] honored to receive the scholarship,” the freshman biology major said. “To me, [Hart] seemed like a really good person. I am sad that I didn’t get to meet her and get to know her.”
In the past, Hart’s presence on campus and interaction with students has been called into question by some.
“I’m not sure exactly where the folks [have] been but I have made a very intense effort to work with the student body officers, to go to the student assembly, to give state of the university presentations that are open to all students twice a semester,” Hart said. “I go to student activities, to games, interact with the students there.”
“I think that there are 39,000 students at Temple and when I do walk around campus, it always surprises me, when I say ‘hello’ to people, how few recognize me,” Hart said. “But that’s to be expected on a very large campus.”
Senior psychology major Aadil Patel, president of the Muslim Students Association, said although he had never met Hart in person, she was “very informative” at the TSG meetings that she attended last year.
As the search for Temple’s new president begins, Wagner said he believes the year will provide an adequate time period for the Board of Trustees to effectively evaluate prospective presidents.
“She needed to give the board a chance to go through a recruitment process to identify a new president and then kind of hand off the baton to the next president, because there is really a need for a multiyear commitment,” Wagner said. “Quite frankly, I think the Temple presidency will be attractive to a lot of candidates out there in higher education because the university is very much on the upswing.”
The Board of Trustees will meet for a public meeting on Oct. 11.
After leaving, Hart said she’ll be involved with Temple through teaching and academic initiatives. Her agreement for next year has not yet been confirmed, she later added.
While word of Hart’s resignation comes months before her departure, she said she will continue to exercise all of the powers of the president until she leaves.
With state appropriation requests, and the tuition increases typically attached to appropriation decreases, at the forefront of many university officials’ priorities, Hart alluded to another hectic year in Harrisburg. Because of this, she said, she isn’t worried about being nicknamed a lame-duck president during her final year.
“This is going to be an incredibly busy year,” Hart said. “The revenue numbers don’t look good, this is not encouraging. I think there will be enough to do that there won’t even be a chance to think about that.”
Brian Dzenis, Angelo Fichera and Connor Showalter can be reached at email@example.com.