SHEPHERDSTOWN – An interim president will likely be named at Shepherd University as President Suzanne Shipley accepts a new position at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, according to Executive Director of Shepherd University Communications Valerie Owens.
“Usually with a presidential search there is not enough time to name a replacement and an interim president will be named,” Owens said in a telephone interview.
In an email to faculty and staff, Shipley announced late Monday, March 9, that she had accepted a position at Midwestern effective July 2015.
“Over the next several weeks, I will be working with Shepherd’s Board of Governors to establish a transition plan that would be set in place prior to my departure for Midwestern in July. The goal of this plan will be to ensure that the great work to establish Shepherd as a strong public liberal arts institution continues. The Board, a transition team, or I will share additional details as they are determined,” Shipley said.
“The average time frame is at least six months…the trend in higher education is hiring a search firm to search for the next president,” Owen said. “That will be announced when (President Shipley and Shepherd’s Board of Governors) proceed.”
Owens said when President Shipley was hired it was done directly by the University’s Board of Governors, but it has not been determined how the search for Shipley’s replacement will be handled.
“A lot is up in the air,” Owens said.
Owens referred to the press release stating they are waiting to hear from the Board, a transition team or Shipley.
Shepherd University Board of Governors consists of 12 members. One institutional representative, one classified employee or faculty representative and a student representative. The other nine members are appointments made by the governor, which include alumni, business people and community leaders, according to Owens.
Midwestern State University, founded in 1922 as Wichita Falls Junior College, became Midwestern University in 1950. It is Texas’ only public liberal arts school and enrolls approximately 6,500 students yearly, according to its website.
Midwestern offers 16 undergraduate programs with 43 majors and 30 minors, nine graduate programs with 28 majors and 15 minors.
“She is a fantastic person, she has great credentials, she is the COPLAC president…that’s a big deal,” Shawn Hessing, chair of the Board of Regents for Midwestern State University, said in a statement. “She has the whole scenery, the whole package if you will, we are very, very pleased to have this opportunity,” Hessing said.
Shipley was raised in Lubbock, Texas, and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech University, and her doctorate in German from the University of Texas at Austin.
“Every individual in this university community- students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community stakeholders- are what make Shepherd such a special place, a place that will always be close to me no where I am. Thank you for the opportunity to work, play, sing, cheer, and celebrate with you over what I have been some of Shepherd’s best years,” Shipley said.
“The decision is, of course, a bittersweet one, combining the opportunity to lead a COPLAC institution which shares many similarities to Shepherd with also being closer to my family,” Shipley said.
Dr. Betty Ellzey, chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages, said she was sad to see Shipley go.
“I think she’s done a lot of great things for Shepherd,” Ellzey said in an interview. “She really guided us through some bad economic times with the recession. I think we’re a stronger university.”
Ellzey noted that getting Shepherd into the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges was a benefit of Shipley’s term.
“She’s been a strong supporter of the arts, theater and athletics, not just academics,” Ellzey said.
“There’s a lot of speculation that we will be announcing an Interim President, that’s what we usually do,” said Vice President of student affairs Dr. Thomas Segar during a Student Government Association meeting March 10. “But I don’t think that will be happening any time soon. Shipley isn’t gone, she’s still here until July.”
With contributions by Kelsey Stoneberger and Nicholas McDill