In a special faculty and staff meeting Oct. 19, President G. Blair Dowden, Ed.D., announced that he will be retiring at the end of this academic year.
Dowden has served as president for 21 years. He was inaugurated in 1991 at age 39, the 12th president of then Huntington College.
“I’ve always said I will leave Huntington University when I felt God was moving me in that direction. We now feel this time is right for us and Huntington University,” Dowden said.
Dowden first informed the personnel committee of his intentions to step down in April, a decision he said was set in motion when he signed his last contract.
“I started this process three years ago,” Dowden said. “I thought this would be a good time.”
Kelly Savage, the chair of the Board of Trustees, said the trustees were saddened by his decision, but they are ready to start the search process.
“With regret the board did accept the fact that President Dowden is going to be retiring,” Savage said.
The search for Dowden’s successor has already begun. The first step was for the board to hire an was for the board to hire an Executive Search Firm (ESF), an outside organization to assist with finding a top caliber person to fill the position.
“We thought that would be the best way to really get out there in the marketplace and identify the top candidates,” Savage said.
Their search for an ESF started with 14 firms, before being narrowed to three firms, which they interviewed, before choosing Carter-Baldwin.
“We came away very quickly with the selection of one executive search firm we felt fully understood this marketplace, understood the challenges facing in higher education, having a mission mind for Jesus Christ and our mission,” Savage said.
The board will meet with Carter-Baldwin to set up an expected timeline for events.
Additionally, there will be an ad hoc presidential advisory council set up to aid in the hiring process. This council will get input from a wide variety of people, including students, faculty, community leaders and donors.
Ideally, the position will be filled by the end of the year, but only if they find the right candidate, Savage said.
“The plan is to have someone hired before President Dowden leaves,” she said. “We are after the right candidate, so we aren’t just after a timing issue, we are after the right candidate.”
Dowden plans on being available to the new president to help transition smoothly.
“My intentions will be to work with all of you to prepare the institution for a new president, and then to take my leave and be available to assist the new president as requested,” Dowden said.
The search means there are three senior administrator vacancies, including a vice president of academic affairs and senior vice president of business and finance.
Dowden said the impact of his retirement on other searches will be addressed when determined.
“My initial reaction was surprise,” Del Doughty, Ph.D., interim senior vice president of academic affairs, said. “He’s been here a long time. It’s hard to image him not being here.”
Doughty said he has enjoyed working closely with Dowden in recent months.
“He has impressed me with his organization and focus, but most of all I find him to be a gentleman,” he said.
Vince Haupert, vice president for advancement, said that in his time here, he has seen Dowden help students grow.
“His leadership has attributed to a much stronger spiritual vitality in the student body,” Haupert said. “There are more students who are here and really want to grow academically, spiritually, socially, as a whole person.”
Dowden said he isn’t quite sure exactly what he will be doing in his time after moving out of the president’s office, but he imagines he will somehow stay involved in higher Christian education, along with spending more time with his family.
“I know I will be involved in Christ-centered higher education in the future, serving on some other non-for profit boards, and for-profit boards as well,” Dowden said. “Personally, Chris and I will enjoy some time traveling, spending time together and being with five wonderful grandchildren.”