Dye Announces Retirement
After more than a decade of service, President Nancy Dye sent out an email early Monday afternoon to the student body, faculty and staff announcing her retirement, effective July 1, 2007.
Dye’s retirement comes hard on the heels of Harry Hirsch’s resignation from the position of Dean of Arts and Sciences, signaling a highly transitional year for Oberlin’s administration.
Although rumors and conspiracy theories abound about the impetus for her retirement, Dye insists her reasons are quite straightforward:
“Much of this was driven by personal considerations,” she said. “I’m turning 60 in March, and the physical demands of this job are considerable.”
Dye went on to describe the stress of long travel dates, lack of personal time and, more generally, the need to be “on” at all times.
According to Dye, she made the decision to retire in early August and shared this information with the Board of Trustees, as represented by Chair Robert Lemle, by mid-August.
“This year looked to be kind of daunting,” she elaborated. “I didn’t want to fight all year. It’s bad for students, bad for faculty. It’s counterproductive.”
She added that when she made the decision that this would be her last year it “was like a missing puzzle piece…it felt right.”
Dye will have served as Oberlin’s president for 13 years at the end of this academic year, which is generally considered a lengthy tenure.
When asked about her plans after Oberlin, Dye responded, “I started to think some time ago that it would be nice to do ‘one more thing’ — what that will be I don’t know.”
She expressed a specific interest, however, in continuing her efforts in educational cooperation with the Middle East for her last years.
Dye cited plans to continue her efforts to internationalize Oberlin and to implement certain elements of the Strategic Plan. She was particularly interested in the library’s proposal for an “academic common.”
“I’ll be President until the very end,” she said.
However, Dye was noticeably absent at Tuesday’s opening convocation and the College Faculty Meeting Wednesday.
Dye explained her absence: “I got up at 4 a.m. two mornings in succession. By the time [Tuesday] night came along, I was exhausted.”
For the Board of Trustees, this academic year will be dedicated to leading the search for Dye’s replacement. Lemle explained how he foresees this process proceeding:
“The search committee will be led by trustees and I expect that it will include representatives from the faculty, alumni and students,” he said. “We will find appropriate ways to involve campus constituencies during the search process.”
Dye confirmed that the search that yielded her own presidency was conducted using similar procedures and consulting with the same groups of people.
Lemle said that the search for candidates would be an open one: “We welcome expressions of interest from both internal and external candidates. I also expect that candidates will be referred by trustees, faculty or others, or come to us through a consultant.”
He added, “It’s a buyer’s market.”
According to Lemle, the search will officially begin at the Board’s October meeting, in which a search committee will be appointed.
Although Dye says her decision to retire was made during the summer, the school year opened to a flurry of controversy over her administration. A Sept. 12 Cleveland Plain Dealer article covering her retirement reported that 67 professors had sent an e-mail letter to the board of trustees expressing a lack of confidence in Dye.
Dye said she believed this letter existed but had no further comment on it. She also had no comment on rumors that some members of the board of trustees had buried a negative report of the administration.
Despite this, Dye said, “ I don’t feel any regrets. I feel Oberlin has been very good to me…I’ve had so many remarkably interesting experiences. My life at Oberlin has been so much more interesting than I thought it could be.”
She added what she liked particularly about Oberlin: “There are easier places to be a president or a dean…one of the great things about Oberlin is that it challenges you in every way.”
Dye said that she was proud of numerous accomplishments she achieved for Oberlin; among them were an increased endowment (it grew over 400 million dollars during her tenure), building the science center, increased efforts to internationalize Oberlin and the creation of the Strategic Plan. She also said that she was proud of making the institution more student-centered. She finished by speaking of the school’s contribution to the community during her tenure, citing “saving” the hospital and creating partnerships with the community.
Lemle was quick to emphasize Dye’s achievements.
“Part of her legacy is an Oberlin College poised for continued success, with a clear mission and direction supported by both strategic and financial goals,” he said.
“In my judgment, she will rank among the most important of Oberlin’s past presidents. She will be a tough act to follow.”