Cartwright announces retirement plans

Rachel Abbey

President feels it’s time for a shift in power

President Carol Cartwright speaks at a meeting on Sept. 16 in a conference room of the library. Cartwright announced yesterday that she plans to step down from the leadership position she has held for nearly 15 years.

Credit: Steve Schirra

President Carol Cartwright announced yesterday that she will retire, bringing to a close nearly 15 years as the university’s 10th president.

“The time is right to begin a new chapter in my life and in the life of the great university I have been privileged to lead,” Cartwright said in a statement.

In an interview, she said a number of factors made this an ideal time for a shift in power. The university has guidelines for the future with a strategic plan in place for the next few years. Additionally, contract negotiations with faculty and staff unions are completed, and the public launch of Kent State’s next large fundraising campaign is set for 2007.

“At the end of the day, it’s really the university’s needs that guided my decision-making and the Board’s concurrence,” said Cartwright, 64.

Finding a successor

Cartwright’s contract will expire June 30, 2006, and the Board of Trustees has been prepared for her possible retirement at its conclusion, Cartwright said. The Board has known about Cartwright’s expected retirement for a few months and has been in the planning stages, said R. Douglas Cowan, Board of Trustees chairman.

A search committee will be created within the next six weeks, he said.

Cartwright said she will remain at Kent State until her successor can take over. The next president could not begin before her contract ends, and Cartwright said she will stay past its expiration.

“The Board of Trustees and I have been working on a succession plan for quite some time,” Cartwright said. “I wanted to be sure the fall semester was well launched, but we also wanted to make sure the Board had time for a national search.”

She will remain in Northeast Ohio to assist her successor and make the switch as smooth as possible.

“I really want to be available through summer 2007 to help with the transition,” Cartwright said.

She said she wants to keep her schedule open for awhile, but can’t imagine leaving higher education. She has been involved as a higher education faculty member or administrator since 1964.

“I’m a high-energy, engaged individual, so I’m sure there will be other interesting opportunities I will be pursuing,” she said.

A life of higher education

Before Kent State, Cartwright was the vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of California at Davis and the dean for undergraduate programs and vice provost at Pennsylvania State University, as well as a faculty member. She also served as a faculty member at the University of Hawaii and universities in Europe. She has served on numerous committees and councils related to higher education.

When Cartwright came to Kent State in 1991, she was the first female president of a public university in Ohio. However, people got over that quickly, she said, and put the focus back on goals and results.

Cartwright is as quick to dismiss her other distinction. The nearly 15 years she has spent at Kent State makes her the longest-serving president in Ohio now.

“I didn’t stay to mount up the years,” she said.

Cartwright said her focus has been the accomplishments of the university.

“What drives me is an opportunity to make a difference,” she said.

“In a period as long as 15 years (…), there have been the occasional false starts and miscalculations, but that’s how you learn.”

Cartwright has overseen many accomplishments in her years, but she said a few stand out to her, such as the eight straight years of enrollment growth and education quality. The university has a very strong sense of its goals and mission now, and she wants to see it continue that momentum.

She said all of Kent State’s accomplishments are the result of a team effort.

“I’ve had the privilege of leading the group,” Cartwright said, “but nothing in a complicated institution like this can be led without a group.”

Cartwright said she thinks Kent State will continue to thrive as a university in her absence.

“We have a great team in place, and the Board has enormous confidence in the people who are here,” she said.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].


Committee will search for successor

Board of Trustees Chairman R. Douglas Cowan said the process of searching for a successor to President Carol Cartwright will begin in the next six weeks.

The Board will put together a committee, Cowan said, that is likely to include 12 to 16 people, such as deans, students, faculty, staff, trustees and representatives from the city of Kent.

During a few months, the committee will review any resumes it receives and narrow candidates down to about three or four finalists, Cowan said. Usually, candidates from outside the university apply. The Board will make the ultimate decision.

“If we could, we’d like to clone President Cartwright and get her twin,” Cowan said, jokingly. He said the trustees will be looking for a candidate with many of the same characteristics as Cartwright, especially strong people skills.

The university will begin a new fundraising campaign in 2007, and the new president will have to develop good relationships with alumni.

Cowan said the search will be conducted differently than the search through which Cartwright was hired because she has helped the university to evolve. Kent State has been elevated to a new level and is second in size in Ohio only to Ohio State.

“I think it’s going to be an attractive place to come to,” he said.

– Rachel Abbey