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In surprise announcement, Transylvania University president steps down after 5 years.

Bryan Station IT graduates awarded $18,000 per year scholarship to Transylvania

Students of the Bryan Station High School IT academy were surprised in the school's library with an $18,000 per year scholarship to Transylvania University upon graduation.
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Students of the Bryan Station High School IT academy were surprised in the school's library with an $18,000 per year scholarship to Transylvania University upon graduation.

Transylvania University President Seamus Carey will step down this summer after five years on the job to lead a college in New York in New York, officials said in a surprise announcement Monday afternoon.

Iona College, a small, Catholic liberal arts college in New Rochelle, announced Tuesday that Carey would begin work as the school’s ninth president on July 1. New Rochelle is close to Carey’s former home in Pelham Manor.

“Serving this community as your president has been an honor and a privilege. I am grateful for all of the support I received and for all of the friendships we developed,” Carey said in a campus-wide email. “There are very few schools for which I would leave Transylvania. However, I have been given the opportunity to return to New York.”

William T. Young, chairman of the Transy Board of Trustees said an interim president would be named for the 2019-2020 school year.

“We are sorry to see Seamus leave Transylvania after five successful years as president,” Young said.

Carey took the helm at Transy after the fractious leadership of former President Owen Williams, who left after a vote of no-confidence from the faculty. A philosophy professor and author, Carey is an ardent supporter of the traditional liberal arts education offered at Transy, but also oversaw major building projects—including the construction of three new residence halls, Alumni Plaza and the start of construction on a new, $30-million Campus Center.

He was not, however, able to greatly grow Transy’s enrollment, which has slipped by about 100 students since his arrival to less than 1,000 students on campus. Officials have said an ideal enrollment is between 1,200 and 1,400 students. Many small, private liberal arts colleges are struggling in the current higher education and economic climate, where many students seek more specialized degrees.

“In my opinion, he did a great job,” said James Frazier, a member of the Board of Trustees. “He inherited a very challenging situation and I thought he did a phenomenal job healing the university and moving them forward. The buildings, the new capital campaigns, they’re all driven by him. I think he will be missed.”

Carey worked to diversify Transy’s student population, adding several sports and starting a new scholarship program for students from the career academies at Bryan Station High School. He also dealt with several controversies, including a machete-wielding former student who attacked fellow students at the school cafe over their political views, and a Buzzfeed essay by a former Transy student titled “A Black Girl’s History with Southern Frat Racism.” Last week, the editor of the student news site, The Rambler, accused the administration of shutting down student discourse over a plan to stop compensating students and an advisor to work at the publication.

Angela Edwards, a member of Transy’s second governing board, the Board of Regents, said she was saddened to hear Carey’s news.

“Transy was undergoing a transformation under President Carey’s leadership – not just new buildings and new programs (i.e., the Transylvania in Ireland summer program), but the consciousness around which the University was working to improve and enhance its diversity and inclusion efforts; the efforts to build ‘community’ between campus and its surrounding community; the doggedness in spreading the word about all the amazing things that Transy students accomplish,” she said. “All of this work MUST continue with the new administration.”

Jacob Hawkins, who graduated in 2013, said Carey brought transparency to the president’s office.

“He demonstrated open communication and intellectual curiosity, while allowing all constituencies to have a voice in the future of the university,” Hawkins said. “On more than one occasion, he challenged all of us—students, faculty and alumni—to explore unique perspectives.”

Young said a the search for a permanent replacement would begin in the fall.

Fayette District Judge Julie Goodman, a Transy alumnus said the next president will have to finish projects like the new student center that Carey started.

“The next president needs to be a consensus building between board, faculty and community,” she said, “and I think the next president needs to realize the importance of liberal arts colleges and be an advocate of liberal arts colleges.”

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