Texas Woman’s University Chancellor and President Ann Stuart announced Friday that she will retire once the university can find a replacement.
“One always has to think of next steps in people’s lives and career,” said Stuart, 76. “This seems like the appropriate time.”
Stuart, who has been the chancellor and president of TWU since 1999, agreed to remain in her role until a successor is named, which she expects to happen in about a year.
She announced her decision during the quarterly Board of Regents meeting in Houston.
She said she wants to stay through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation process, which will happen in April, and the upcoming legislative session.
Stuart said that once the book on the accreditation process and this legislative session is closed, it would be a natural time to transition into new leadership.
“It gives time for new leadership to get ready for the 2015 legislative session,” Stuart said.
The regents will hire the new chancellor and president. Sue Bancroft, vice chairwoman of the TWU Board of Regents, will lead the search.
Students, faculty, staff and alumni received an e-mail Friday about Stuart’s retirement.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Stuart said, remembering when she first arrived with husband, Ray R. Poliakoff, and their two dogs. She hadn’t been to Texas before she came to TWU, she said.
“There have been so many successes,” she said.
Under Stuart’s leadership, enrollment has grown 85 percent with a record number of students this fall. TWU also has graduated more than 20,000 students, and fundraising for facilities, scholarships and development has topped $220 million.
New facilities have been added to each of the three campuses during Stuart’s 12 years, including the TWU Institute of Health Sciences-Houston Center, the TWU T. Boone Pickens Institute of Health Sciences-Dallas Center, the Ann Stuart Science Complex in Denton and the Fitness and Recreation Center in Denton.
Stuart and her husband contributed financially to TWU to establish the Ann Stuart and Ray R. Poliakoff Celebration of Science, a series to promote and celebrate science, as well as the Chancellor’s Alumni Excellence Award and the Ann Stuart and Ray R. Poliakoff Endowed Scholarships for undergraduate students.
“Her exceptional leadership has helped TWU become a stronger and smarter university that is well prepared for the challenges of tomorrow,” Mike McCullough, chairman of the TWU Board of Regents, said in a statement Friday.
Stuart said she’s had a wonderful time, but she’s looking forward to her future steps, although she isn’t sure what those will be yet.
“I know the other members of the Board of Regents join me in thanking Dr. Stuart for her stellar leadership and unwavering devotion to TWU,” McCullough wrote. “She will be a hard act to follow.”
Richard Nicholas, vice president for student life, said that by agreeing to remain in place until the university finds her replacement, Stuart showed how much she cares about TWU.
“We have the luxury where she has given the regents and the university time to do a very thorough search,” Nicholas said. “That’s not always a luxury you have.”
She has been working hard to help TWU move to the next level, he said.
“She is visionary and has made such a change in our enrollment, in our facilities,” he said, adding that Stuart has also increased the university’s visibility.
Under her leadership, the university has made large strides and its reputation has grown, Nicholas said.
“To work under her leadership has been such a joy,” he said.
Other local and state leaders credited Stuart with some important changes at the university during a time when funding for higher education was shrinking.
Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, has worked with Stuart since 2000 when she was first elected.
“I loved working with Dr. Stuart,” Crownover said. “She is very highly respected in Austin as a straight shooter, as a woman of her word and as a visionary for where higher education needs to go.”
She cited two examples of Stuart’s visionary guidance.
Under Stuart’s leadership, TWU opened the $40 million Institute for Health Sciences at its downtown Houston campus that was paid for with private donations and public-private partnerships, rather than state money, Crownover recalled.
Along with that was a $3 million donation from the Nelda C. Stark Foundation to name the College of Nursing after Stark.
And in Dallas, the Pickens Institute offers another example of Stuart raising the university’s profile. Pickens donated $5 million for the building’s construction.
“TWU had basically no presence in Austin before she came,” Crownover said. “She put TWU on the map.
“She is charming and brilliant, and she thinks in ways the average person doesn’t begin to think.”
Lee Jackson, chancellor of the University of North Texas System, said Stuart leaves the university on a very successful note after a very distinguished career.
He said he has spoken with her about her early years at TWU and the challenges of the then-declining enrollment and funding.
“I know it took a team effort, but I’d say it’s not much of an exaggeration to say she saved TWU,” Jackson said.
He said Stuart raised TWU’s profile significantly around the state.
“I’ve noticed her great success in Houston and Dallas in building TWU into a strong, recognized statewide brand,” Jackson said. “When you put that together with enrollment growth and the financial strength that’s been achieved in Denton, it’s quite a legacy.”
Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs said Stuart has significantly improved the relationship between the city and the university.
He said Stuart and the city have communicated well about both the city’s growth plans and the university’s growth plans.
“She has a great deal of respect for and understanding of this community and the role that TWU has in this community,” Burroughs said.
For example, he said, TWU has played host to many community events, and TWU students and employees have represented the university in more formal ways at other community events.
“That keeps TWU high in profile; it also makes the campus not an isolated island — it makes it part of the fabric of Denton,” Burroughs said.
Staff Writer Matthew Zabel contributed to this report.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.