By Leader-Telegram staff
UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer is finally ready to move on from the campus where he has been an undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty member and administrator for most of his adult life.
Meyer announced Monday he is retiring Aug. 18 from the institution where he has worked for a total of 32 years.
“It is time for me and my wife, Debbie, to enter a new phase in our lives,” Meyer said. “We will miss the students, faculty and staff at UW-Stout who have meant so much to us over the years.”
Meyer, 62, became the seventh chancellor at UW-Stout on Aug. 16, 2014, succeeding the late Chancellor Emeritus Charles W. Sorensen, who held the position for 26 years. Meyer announced his plan in a statement sent Monday to students, faculty and staff.
“At the end of my time on campus, I will have worked for UW-Stout for 32 years, as a faculty member, college dean, special assistant to the chancellor and, finally, chancellor,” Meyer said in the statement. “I feel very privileged to have worked with an exceptional group of faculty, staff and students over that time and have formed many lifelong friendships.
“UW-Stout will always have a special place in my heart. It is where I met my wife when we were both students here in the 1970s, and both of us have bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW-Stout. One of my daughters, Erica, also is a proud Blue Devil alumna.”
The announcement came as a surprise on the Menomonie campus where all of the previous chancellors have served in the top post for at least 11 years, although the nationwide average term for chancellors is about five years, or the same duration Meyer will have served by the time he retires, said UW-Stout Faculty Senate Chair Petre “Nelu” Ghenciu, chairman of the mathematics, statistics and computer science department.
“He has done a great job, and he will be missed,” Ghenciu said of Meyer, who worked at UW-Stout for 25 years before leaving in 2006 to become president of Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Shell Lake until being named UW-Stout chancellor. “He has moved us in the right direction and was always willing to listen to faculty and sit down and compromise when compromise was necessary.”
Meyer made it a practice to attend faculty senate meetings and answer any questions from faculty members — sometimes to the extent that Ghenciu had to end the sessions so the panel could move on to other business.
With state funding of UW campuses declining, fundraising has become an important role for chancellors and that’s something that Meyer excelled at, Ghenciu said.
UW-Stout’s Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign is nearing its original goal of $35 million. An aspirational goal of $40 million has been established for the campaign, which runs through June 30, 2020.
“I am excited about the present direction of the university,” Meyer said. “We are well on our way to meeting the goal of our Pathways Forward comprehensive campaign, and our enrollment outlook is favorable for fall 2019. We have incredible faculty and staff who are committed to our students’ success, continuous improvement and innovative programming and delivery. Therefore, now is the time for me to step away and accept some new challenges and opportunities in life.”
Meyer said UW System President Ray Cross has indicated that the system will begin a search for his replacement in August. UW officials said that an interim chancellor will be named to lead the campus throughout much of the 2019-20 academic year.
“I am confident this search will result in the appointment of an excellent leader as my successor at UW-Stout,” Meyer said. “I will do everything I can to make this transition as smooth as possible.”
Cross said in a statement that Meyer’s varied experience helps him understand the history, the importance and the value of UW-Stout and its polytechnic mission in a way that few others can.
“In the broader community, Bob also understands the manufacturing world and the changes it is facing and how higher education must evolve to serve those needs,” Cross said. “Under his leadership, UW-Stout’s reputation has soared both in the state and beyond. Bob has been a thoughtful, dedicated leader, and it has been our privilege to work with him. We wish Bob and his wife, Debbie, all the best in his retirement.”
UW System Regent President John Behling also issued a statement indicating the system has benefited from Meyer’s wisdom and experience over the years.
“He has a keen understanding of the evolving needs and challenges facing students and employers, and he has always shown an unwavering commitment to helping students succeed,” Behling said. “On behalf of our university community, I want to thank him for his exemplary service and dedication to the UW System. We will miss working with him, and we wish him well in the future.”
Concerning his accomplishments, Meyer said he is proud of the new programs that have been added under his administration, which have built upon UW-Stout’s polytechnic mission. The new undergraduate programs are in mechanical engineering; digital marketing technology; applied biochemistry and molecular biology; and video production. Also, electrical engineering was added to the computer engineering program. The university began a master’s degree in construction management and is considering programming in welding engineering technology.
“I’m also very pleased that our employment rate for new graduates has increased every year since I became chancellor,” Meyer said.
The last reported employment rate for recent graduates was 98.2 percent, and that is expected to go up this year, he said, adding, “This is a reflection of the outstanding work our faculty and staff are doing, day in and day out.”
Other milestones, Meyer said, were establishing the Robert F. Cervenka School of Engineering; opening of the Joe and Tina Pregont Packaging Laboratories; and launching the Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, all through generous private donations.
Meyer also said he is pleased that the new Blue Devil Guarantee scholarship program, which freshmen will automatically receive if they meet eligibility requirements, has been an initial success. That program is partially responsible for the dramatic increase in freshman admissions the university is forecasting for fall 2019, he said.
“All in all, UW-Stout is in an excellent position for the new chancellor to take over the leadership mantle,” Meyer concluded.
Ghenciu said the transition should be seen as an opportunity to bring new ideas to campus while maintaining a commitment to the university’s strengths.
“I’d like to see the next chancellor be somebody who understands the uniqueness of this campus as the only polytechnic campus in the UW System,” Ghenciu said, “and also understands and appreciates our strong connection with industry.”