Shearer: TU’s Longest Serving President Announces Retirement

by Melissa True

On one of his first few days as president of Transylvania University, someone told Dr. Charles Shearer, “You know this office? That’s your office; you need to change it to reflect yourself.”

“So that’s what I did. I tried to make it my office,” Shearer said.

Dr. Charles ShearerAfter 27 years of serving in that office, the school’s longest-serving president will soon leave it to someone else. Much to the surprise of the Transylvania community, Shearer announced his retirement last Saturday to the board of trustees.

After an e-mail was sent to faculty and students, campus and community reaction was swift. The Lexington Herald-Leader covered the story the day after Shearer’s announcement.

Concerning the resignation, Director of Public Relations Sarah Emmons commented, “A lot of people say you can’t separate the man from the place, the place from the man. Dr. Shearer very much is Transy.”

“It was the timing of the board meeting, a birthday coming up, a number of years on the job,” said Shearer of his decision to retire. “The meeting seemed the logical occasion.”

“We’ve all been really fortunate to have Dr. Shearer as president for so long,” said Board Chair William T. Young Jr. “He’s a first-class person as well as a good administrator.”

Shearer has been considering retirement for the past couple of years. He plans for his resignation to become effective in June 2010, but he said he is prepared to stay on until June 2011 in hopes that the selection of a successor will not be rushed.

An advisory committee will soon be formed to help conduct a nationwide search and screen candidates for Shearer’s successor. Young stated that he hopes to begin organizing the search within the next couple of weeks. The advisory committee is expected to hire a national search firm which specializes in searches like this one. In the end the board of trustees will make the final decision on which candidate is chosen.

“My main concern is to find the right person for the job,” said Young. When asked what he would hope to see in Shearer’s successor, Young replied, “I think someone just like him, someone who understands all aspects of the university.”

Though he will be giving up his current post as the president of the school, Shearer plans to maintain a presence on campus even after his presidency ends. He mentioned the possibility of continuing to teach a University 1111 class or an economics course.

Shearer also plans to engage in an active retirement. “I don’t want to just sit on the porch and rock,” he assured. “I would go nuts doing that. I want to be able to serve Transylvania, its new president and students in any way that I can. So I won’t be retiring from this university. I’ll just be retiring from this position. I’ll always consider myself a Transylvanian.”

Shearer said that the decision to retire was not easy. “I went back and forth a lot. I love this college, I’m proud of the students, the faculty and staff. It will not be easy to wake up one day and realize that I won’t be coming into Old Morrison to work,” Shearer said.

In a conversation about his accomplishments and the many changes to campus during his presidency, Shearer often referred to the university as “we,” reflecting how much the place and the man share an identity. He also claimed many of the positive changes to be the result of the collective efforts of the faculty, staff and trustees.

Some of the most significant changes during Shearer’s presidency include a 76-percent increase in enrollment, a 339-percent increase in Transylvania’s endowment from 1983 to its all-time high in 2007, nationwide recognition, and a transition from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to Division III of the NCAA in 2004 to put Transy among its peer institutions.

Shearer also commented on the changes in the student body throughout his time as president, noting the significant rise in student test scores. Additionally, he said that today’s students come to Transy more socially conscious.

“Thirty years ago I don’t think high school students were volunteering as much as they do in their communities now,” he said.

When asked how he foresees his last day at Transy as university president, Shearer responded, “I have a lot of mixed emotions about that. It’s a little scary actually. I guess I’ll turn my keys over to the new president, wish that person well and walk down the steps and go home. It’ll be a very difficult day.”

However, Shearer also anticipates several benefits of stepping down from his post. “I’m looking forward to more free time,” he said, “more flexibility, not having the weight of responsibility of the college on my shoulders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m looking forward to having more time to spend with my wife and family.”

Shearer outlined some characteristics he would like to see the next person bring to the office of president:

“That person must have good judgment, strong character and the ability to relate to many different constituent groups; students, faculty, staff, alumni, the community, trustees – all those groups.”


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