Purdue University President France Córdova will step down from office next summer after five years leading the school.
Córdova announced the decision Friday afternoon during a news conference on the West Lafayette campus.
“I reflected on the chapters that I have had in my life and the chapters that lay before me. I think of life as a series of chapters,” she said, citing an unfinished “bucket list” and other interests to pursue.
“In thinking about the year ahead, I wanted to remain true to my commitment to the trustees and stay for five years. I want to finish as strongly as possible.” She will step down mid-July of 2012, she said.
Córdova became Purdue’s 11th president in 2007. The initial five years of her contract are scheduled to end in mid-2012. Córdova, 63, could have remained president for a sixth year without a motion by the university’s board of trustees.
The announcement comes as Purdue struggles to find a funding balance as state apportions dwindle and raising tuition fees remains the major source, and controversy, for new revenue.
a surge from 26th in 2008. Student retention levels and faculty-sponsored research funding are also at an all-time high.
and we did that in the strategic plan during the first year I was here,” Córdova said. “You make your biggest impact, that is how I look at the world, and then you can kind of wrap it up. You do some augmentation and cement it.
“But your real strength is really setting the plan and then going after it in the first few years.”
Córdova replaced Martin Jischke. Before joining Purdue, she was chancellor of University of California-Riverside. Before that, from 1993 to 1996, she was chief scientist for NASA.
Purdue trustee chairman Keith Krach listened to Córdova’s announcement via teleconference but did not comment. He later said he believes student success initiatives will define her legacy.
“Under France’s leadership, she and her team have enhanced the academic quality of the student body through higher SAT and GPAs, focused on student leadership and increasing our retention rates, all of which contributed significantly to our dramatic rise in the rankings, which only increases the value of a Purdue degree for our students and alumni,” he said.
Córdova cited scholarships, a fundraising campaign, and upcoming capital projects, including the Center for Student Excellence and Leadership, as some ways her administration helped students.
“I’ve really put a spotlight on the student experience, and that is one of the biggest shifts in the culture that I think I have effected,” she said. “And that includes our regional campuses, too.”
Teresa Lubbers, the state’s commissioner for higher education, said Córdova was a strong role model for women in the state. Córdova is the university’s first female and first Hispanic president.
Lubbers said the financial situation that Purdue and other state schools face is trying. But a new 10-year funding plan that Córdova has pushed for and will unveil later this summer will help the university cope.
“France is showing a visionary kind of leadership of thinking ahead,” Lubbers said.
“She understands there is a new paradigm in higher education and wants the university to lead on it.”
Gov. Mitch Daniels asked Purdue to cut $45.5 million systemwide as part of statewide higher-education cuts. In addition, the campus undertook to identify another $67.3 million in savings.
Córdova said Purdue cannot continually turn to tuition increases when state funding falls short. The 10-year funding plan is designed to identify significant alternative sources of revenue.
“I think it will be part of my legacy if we can institutionalize that as a process — that every two years, we return to renewing the decadal funding plan so it is like a rolling 10-year revenue generation plan.”
According to Córdova’s contract, she is to be president “for an initial term of five years, beginning July 16, 2007, and to continue thereafter unless terminated.”
Under her contract, if she retires on or after June 30, 2012, she’ll get one year of sabbatical at full pay and benefits to reorient herself to her teaching discipline or prepare for duties as president emeritus.
Currently, Córdova is paid $450,000. She has taken one pay increase since 2007.
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