Tom Harden has informed colleagues, friends and members of the campus community he intends to conclude his tenure as University of Wisconsin-Green Bay chancellor in August 2014.
He made the announcement in an email to UW-Green Bay employees and community stakeholders on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 18).
“After careful thought I have come to the conclusion that the time is right to prepare for my transition from the chancellorship,” Harden wrote. “My wife, Cathy, and I will continue to reside in Green Bay and remain active in the community and with the University, but in new and different roles. Next year, I will continue to assist with University fundraising, and I will also prepare for a return to teaching in 2015.”
Harden has served as the University’s top administrator since June 1, 2009. His career has spanned 35 years in higher education, including 26 years in a range of leadership positions including the last 14 as a chief executive officer — five as UW-Green Bay chancellor and the previous nine as president of Clayton State University, near Atlanta.
Harden said he recently notified the UW System of his decision with the anticipation that a national search could begin immediately. He hopes his successor will be named in time to take over for the fall semester.
“I am proud of what UW-Green Bay has accomplished and I have enjoyed serving as chancellor,” said Harden, who will turn 65 in March. “The primary reason for my decision is this: Cathy and I have four children and their spouses, and 11 young grandchildren, in different parts of the country. We came to the realization that at this stage of our lives… we need time to do things other than work. I want my grandchildren to know me well, and I want to be part of their lives. The reality of a university chief executive’s position in this day and age is that there is little time for such things.”
There are 14 UW System chancellors. Only four, Charles Sorensen of Stout (appointed in 1988), Richard Wells of Oshkosh (2000), Joe Gow of La Crosse (2007) and Richard Telfer of Whitewater (2008) have served longer than Harden. Sorensen has announced his retirement, effective next summer.
By continuing with the University but transitioning away from the chancellorship, Harden said, he will have more time to personally assist with key UW-Green Bay fundraising initiatives. “We have identified the needs, and those include more student scholarships, various academic needs, the Weidner Center, and new outdoor facilities for student recreation and athletics,” Harden said. “I think I can be helpful to the University, the new chancellor and our community advocates in pursuing those resources.”
Prior to his announcement, Harden informed University leadership, key alumni and community supporters of his plans through visits and phone calls to individuals who serve on the Chancellor’s Council of Trustees and UW-Green Bay Foundation Board. Harden said he sought to assure members that current funding initiatives including scholarships and academic needs, the Weidner Center and the arts, and outdoor facilities would continue to move forward.
Lou LeCalsey, the retired paper industry executive who chairs the Council and Foundation board, praised Harden for his leadership.
“I have personally known all five chancellors at this institution and worked closely with four, and Tom Harden takes a back seat to no one in regard to integrity, thoughtfulness, commitment to this University and its students and executive skills, especially in strategic planning and managing university operations in an extremely challenging state fiscal and budgetary environment,” LeCalsey said.
LeCalsey said he anticipates Harden will wish to continue to help pursue additional private resources for the University, especially for the new engineering technology program. “I expect he’ll remain involved with a variety of community and campus causes,” LeCalsey said, “but with his personal background in technology and engineering, Tom is uniquely qualified to advocate for this program.”
Diane Ford, a 1975 UW-Green Bay graduate and longtime University supporter, noted Harden’s success in setting a strategic course, in making Weidner Center revitalization a priority, and in leading creation of the UW-Green Bay Foundation in 2011.
“He has done amazing things to move this University forward,” said Ford, a retired utilities executive who serves as Foundation treasurer. “I am excited that he plans to remain in Green Bay and stay active in supporting the University.”
Mark Murphy, president and CEO of the Green Bay Packers organization and an active advocate on behalf of the University, shared similar sentiments.
“Tom’s leadership has been a great asset for the University and it’s been a pleasure for me to serve with him on the Council of Trustees,” said Murphy. “The establishment of the Foundation and his overall strategic vision has positioned the University very well for future success. Tom is truly a person of high character, and will be a big help to the community and UWGB as chancellor emeritus.”
Harden said he is looking forward to a return to the classroom. He earned the rank of full professor in 1990 while on the faculty of Northern Kentucky University, where he served as department chairperson and taught a range of courses including electronics, hydraulics/pneumatics, industrial technology and education, and curriculum and instruction. At UW-Green Bay, he will be eligible to join the teaching faculty of the Professional Program in Education.
While at UW-Green Bay, Harden has presided over a series of record graduating classes, a surge in enrollment of returning adult students, and an increase in the number of students of color — all areas targeted for growth as the institution seeks to better serve its region. He initiated a review of the school’s graduate offerings and development of new master’s degrees in nursing and sustainability. He continued the expansion of cooperative agreements with area technical colleges, and recently succeeded in establishing new programs in engineering technology in partnership with UW-Oshkosh and area UW Colleges and technical colleges.
Under Harden’s leadership, UW-Green Bay achieved important objectives with action to develop and implement a five-year plan to revitalize the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts; development of a more clearly articulated institutional identity with the new 360° of Learning brand; and creation of the UW-Green Bay Foundation, a move that provided the institution enhanced flexibility and more active and appropriate control of gifts, investments and real estate.
In private fundraising, shortly after his arrival in Green Bay, Harden accepted the University’s largest single gift for academics in 2009 with a $5.5 million contribution from Dr. David A. Cofrin, capping the $30 million Campaign for UW-Green Bay at 20 percent over goal. Earmarked for academic enhancements, the gift led to the establishment and naming of the Austin E. Cofrin School of Business, honoring the founder of the Fort Howard Paper Company. More recently, with growth of the University’s student scholarship fund a priority, the University and its Foundation have raised funds to endow numerous new scholarships.
Early in his tenure, Harden initiated a Universitywide strategic planning process to guide institutional priorities during the next decade; assembled a new leadership team with a revamped cabinet structure; and reached out to UW-Green Bay employees to solicit suggestions for low- and no-cost “Quick Fix” initiatives — more than two dozen simple but solid ideas for improving life on campus and services to students.
Previous to his chief executive service to UW-Green Bay and Clayton State, Harden’s administrative career included time as dean of the College of Technology at Eastern Michigan University, and as chairman of the Department of Technology at Northern Kentucky University. He has taught in both college and K-12 classrooms. A native of Middletown, Ohio, Harden apprenticed as a skilled tradesman in his hometown’s steel mill before finding his calling in teaching. He earned his credential as a certified senior manufacturing engineer, and holds a bachelor’s in industrial education from Miami University, a master of science from the University of Dayton and doctor of education from the University of Cincinnati.
Harden is the fifth chancellor in UW-Green Bay history. He was preceded by Bruce Shepard (2001-08), Mark Perkins (1994-2001) and the late David L. Outcalt (1986-1993) and founding chancellor Edward W. Weidner (1966-1986).
The UW System Board of Regents will launch a national search to identify Harden’s successor. That process begins with the appointment of a broadly representative campus search and screen committee. The UW System president will invite faculty, staff and student governance groups to nominate members of that committee, which will be responsible for identifying a slate of finalists, to be considered by a special Regent selection committee. The appointment of a new chancellor must be approved by the full board.
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UW-Green Bay is a comprehensive public institution with an enrollment of approximately 6,600 students, exceptional facilities and affordable, high-quality programs. The University’s 360° of Learning brand is a promise that UW-Green Bay students will learn to examine and solve problems from multiple perspectives. The campus is rich in activities putting students at the center and connecting them with new friends, classmates and faculty. Among the “extras” are a bayshore park, arboretum and golf course, NCAA Division I athletics led by Top 25 women’s basketball, an expanded University Union, premium student housing, the elegant Weidner Center for the Performing Arts and the spacious Kress Events Center. Founded in 1965 and a member institution of the tradition-rich University of Wisconsin System, UW-Green Bay boasts more than 32,000 alumni.