Eastern Kentucky University President Doug Whitlock announced Wednesday morning that he will retire July 31.
Whitlock, who turned 69 on Sunday, made the announcement at the annual convocation for faculty and staff after five years in the job. His retirement will come a year before his contract was set to expire in 2014.
"It's time," he said Wednesday after his speech. "My work will end just before my 70th birthday. I'm proud of what we've accomplished on my watch, but this institution needs a new capital campaign, and you have to have the same president from start to finish."
In addition, he said, someone hired next summer would have time to prepare for the 2014 budget session of the General Assembly.
In a statement Wednesday, EKU Board of Regents chairman Gary Abney said the board would be issuing a request for proposal for a search firm to help in finding EKU's 12th president.
"I invite the entire Eastern community in addition to our other constituents to join me and the entire EKU Board of Regents in thanking President Doug Whitlock for his leadership and accomplishments as Eastern's president, as well as for his considerable service to the university over the years," Abney said.
Abney pledged to make the search an open and inclusive process.
Whitlock, who has been at EKU since 1968, said he was proudest of the progress made at the 16,000-student school, including its rankings as one of the best universities at which to work and one of the best places for veterans to study.
In his term as president, he said, EKU has produced its first Truman, Goldwater and Fulbright scholars, and added several Ph.D. programs. He also oversaw the building of a new arts center, a new facility for the Manchester campus and the first phase of a new science center. A new residence hall is under construction.
In addition, EKU has not had any layoffs due to declines in state budget funding since 2007, Whitlock said.
"My hope was we could manage those things by attrition and reallocation, and that took a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but we have not had any layoffs," he said.
Bob King, president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, said he was saddened by Whitlock's decision.
"He's been a great leader among the presidents," King said. "He has done some wonderful things at Eastern, and the campus has been very well served by his leadership and his obvious love for that campus."
Malcolm Frisbie, a biology professor who serves as the faculty member of the Board of Regents, said Whitlock had established an atmosphere of trust and cooperation on the EKU campus.
"His presidency is one in which issues have been discussed openly among faculty, staff, students," Frisbie said. "What he's been able to do is unleash the power of the university. These have been very tough years for higher education ... but I think he's had us looking forward, being positive, being innovative, and he's done it superbly."
EKU's 11th president has spent nearly his entire career at the Richmond school. He was named interim president in 2007 to replace Joanne Glasser while a national search started. Trustees then voted unanimously to put the administrator in the top job.
Whitlock graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in history and social science from Eastern in 1965. He also holds a master's from Eastern and a doctorate in education from the University of Kentucky, which he received in 1981.
He began his career as an administrator in 1968, as director of publications. He was director of public information from 1971-76, executive assistant to the president from 1976-98, and vice president for administrative affairs from 1998-2003.
He retired from full-time work at the end of 2003 but returned to the classroom, where he taught computer science until May 2006.
Harry Moberly, who served as a legislator from Richmond for decades before becoming a senior vice president at EKU, called Whitlock "a great friend and a mentor to me."
"Doug is a true son of Eastern. ... He managed to bring back the EKU pride that I think we had lost from a couple of presidents that we'd had, and was able to bring people together who had different views on issues so they could get something accomplished," said Moberly, who retired in 2011.
Moberly said he was particularly impressed with Whitlock's modernizing of the budget process, which allowed everyone on campus to have input.
Moberly's name often has been mentioned in regards to the EKU presidency, but he said Wednesday that he expects to keep his name out of contention.
"I don't rule it out completely, but I've got a lot of political scars and baggage that might keep me," he said. "But I'm obviously interested in the success of EKU."
Whitlock said he would spend more time with his wife, Joanne, his granddaughters, his photography and dabbling in electronics. He also might do some consulting.
"I don't want to sit around the house and go to seed," he said.