Chancellor talks family, future, achievements in January address
UW-Green Bay Chancellor Tom Harden addressed an audience of several hundred faculty, staff and retirees in his remarks at UW-Green Bay’s mid-year convocation gathering Thursday (Jan. 23) on campus.
Harden spoke enthusiastically of the appointment of “friend and great colleague” Ray Cross as new UW System president. He talked of University achievements during his own 5-year tenure as chancellor. He also spoke, emotionally at times, of his recent decision to step out of the chancellor’s role by August 2014 to return to teaching and assist with fundraising.
Harden predicted continued progress for UW-Green Bay despite the leadership change ahead.
“There will be a very capable person who will step into this position and do the job at least as well, or better, than I have done,” Harden said, calling UW-Green Bay well-positioned for the future.
Part of his optimism for UW-Green Bay and the state public universities involves the appointment of Cross to head UW System, Harden said. He called the former UW Extension and Colleges chair a “reliable, straight-forward, smart” educator, and an administrator who is budget-savvy, with strong people skills.
As for his own legacy as chancellor, Harden joked several times that he still has most of 2014 remaining but finds it a little curious that he has heard the occasional reference to the “old chancellor.”
He acknowledged that some might question whether five years was a long-enough tenure as chancellor, but noted he currently stands among the top third of 13 UW System chancellors in seniority, and that he had spent nearly a decade in his previous position as president of a public university in Georgia. The trend is for shorter and more intense stays, he said, in these “difficult, demanding jobs.”
Harden told his audience that he reflected on his time as chancellor as he prepared last month to announce his decision. On the advice of his wife, Cathy, he inventoried challenges and achievements to make sure he wouldn’t second-guess himself on any work left undone.
Having done that, Harden continued, he said he was satisfied with the range of institutional accomplishments during his tenure, and went on list more than a dozen examples. He mentioned capital campaign and fundraising gains, academic successes for students and faculty, creation of the UW-Green Bay Foundation, the revitalization of the Weidner Center, academic success in Phoenix Athletics, branding, online learning, facilities improvements, a rising number of graduates, and several others including creation of new majors in engineering technology.
Harden also detailed his reasons for stepping down, which primarily are family-related. Turning 65 in a few months and being the father of four and grandfather of 11 (the oldest still in primary school), he said, he realize the demands of an executive position don’t offer much chance “to carve out time for family.”
“I know I want to hold the hands of my grandchildren when we take walks,” he said, expressing emotion and pausing to wipe his eyes, “and I want to do it before they have to hold mine.”
He said he and Cathy are preparing to make Green Bay their permanent home, having purchased a house and readied it for occupancy. He received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks.