U of L Provost Shirley Willihnganz has officially announced plans to step down at the end of the academic year.

The decision to step down, effective June 30, was announced to the university community on Wed. Feb. 4.

“Her leadership has been vital to our academic improvement, and her dedication to our students, faculty and staff is unsurpassed,” said U of L President James Ramsey in a press release. “I am sorry to see her leave the leadership team, but our students will benefit from her return to the classroom.”

Willihnganz has been Provost for 13 years and played a major role in a 60 percent jump in graduation rate, restructuring undergraduate advising, developing and implementing the 2020 Plan and establishing the Office of Community engagement.

Her most recent project is the 21st Century University Initiative, which Ramsey says he hopes to have approved by the Board of Trustees at their summer retreat in Eastern Kentucky.

“That’s probably my big project,” said Willihnganz, who has overseen the initiative since 2012.

The initiative is still being designed, and under this timeline, would be ready to be implemented next year by Willihnganz’s successor.

“I see this as a really important initiative, and a lot of the things we’re talking about should position us well to move into the century.”

Although she is leaving before the initiative can come to fruition, Willihnganz said the time was right.

“The average tenure of a Provost is less than five years, and I think the national average is somewhere around three,” she said.

“(13 years) is a long time to do this job. The job is 12 to 14 to 16 hour days every day including weekends, and it’s just a lot,” said Willihnganz. “I just think I’ve come to the end of my ability to keep doing that.”

She has planned to take one year of leave before returning to the university.

“At this point I have a faculty position in Communication,” said Willihnganz, who holds tenure at U of L. “I think I need to figure out what I’m doing next, but I’m really lucky that I’ve got there and I’ve gotten some lovely notes from my colleagues telling me they’ll be glad to have me back.”

Willihnganz said that she will have no role in deciding her replacement. According to university spokesman John Drees, there is currently no timeline in place for a hiring process.

Willihnganz has been with the university since 1985, previously serving as Chair of the Department of Communication and as Acting Dean of Arts and Sciences.

Note: John Drees, university spokesman, is a member of the Cardinal’s Board of Directors.

Photo Courtesy the University of Louisville