After being at the helm of the University of Alaska for over 11 years, President Mark Hamilton has announced his intent to retire.
Hamilton cited no specific departure date, hoping to allow the Board of Regents more time to begin the selection process. Hamilton made the announcement at the close of the two-day Board of Regents meeting in Fairbanks June 5.
Hamilton said that he just felt that the time was right.
“I can tell you is that I’ve had the discussion many times with my wife, and all of a sudden, we just knew it was different,” he said. “We just kind said, ‘Yeah, I guess I’ll retire.'”
UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer said in an e-mail that Hamilton has done an excellent job of increasing the public’s awareness of the importance of the University of Alaska and said that his commitment to the Alaska Scholars program helped to “transform” the institution.
Gov. Sarah Palin issued a statement shortly after his announcement thanking him for all his years of service.
“President Hamilton has been a visionary leader of the university system,” she said. “A great orator with a reliable command of the facts, he was very successful in working with legislators to further the university’s goals. While he will be missed, we wish him all the best in his richly deserved retirement.”
Board chair Cynthia Henry said in press release that finding a replacement for Hamilton would be challenging. She did not know exactly how the long the process to find a new president would take.
Hamilton’s decision also partly stems from the fact that the current regents have not had a chance to appoint a president. Hamilton has been serving for 11 years, and each regent is appointed for a term of eight years. In essence, the Regents who appointed him have all since retired.
He said that if asked he would assist the them in choosing a new president. But since it is their sole constitutional duty to choose the leader of the University system, he would avoid offering input.
“I will if they asked me,” he said. “But I would choose, if it were my selection, to say ‘you pick ’em.'”
One of Hamilton’s greatest successes since taking over in August 2008 has included doubling the amount of state funds allocated to UAA by $165 million in fiscal year 1998 to $313 in fiscal year 2009.
When asked if he felt the next president would have a harder time maintaining the amount of state funds the University receives, he said to trust the Regents.
“If they pick the right person we’ll be fine and if they don’t pick the right person, we’re screwed anyway.
He personally thinks that the next president needs to not only know the state of Alaska, but to love it.
“I hope they find someone who’s not just trying to fill a resume. I’d like to see them pick someone who could be here a real long time,” he said. “That’s just my preference. The board will know what to do.”
Hamilton said that when he steps down he has no intention of leaving the state. While he said it’s hard to say what he’ll end up doing, but does hope to travel everywhere the Alaska Ferry System can go with his wife. He even mentioned the possibility of writing a book.
“I think everyone thinks they want to write a book, I don’t know that I have the discipline for that,” he said.
But ultimately, it comes down to simply having more time.
“I’ve worked a 24-hour a day job for 40-something years. I think I’ll just go relax.”