West Liberty University President Stephen Greiner is retiring around the end of this academic year, he announced Tuesday.
Greiner plans to leave June 30, though he’s agreed to stay past that until a new president takes office, and to help with the transition.
He became president in January 2016.
“I’m going to be 74 years old when I leave, nine years past my retirement date,” Greiner said. “And we’ve accomplished so many wonderful things here in the last four years, and it’s time for new leadership and new energy.”
He also said his wife, who retired several years ago, was “relentless” in urging him to follow suit.
“It’s more of teasing me and intentionally getting on my nerves, those kinds of things, but I promised her I wouldn’t blame it on her,” he said.
The Weirton native said he had planned to retire before coming to West Liberty, but the opportunity to be president in the Northern Panhandle was too great.
“Not many people get to come home and serve an area where they grew up,” he said.
Greiner is making roughly $240,000 annually, not including the value of living for free in the president’s house, where his contract required him to live. His contract was set to expire at the end of 2020, so he won’t make the full annual amount if he leaves June 30.
West Liberty Board of Governors Chairman Patrick Ford said he asked Greiner, to no avail, to change his mind and stay. Greiner told Ford a few months ago that he planned to retire, the two men said.
“It was a surprise to me,” Ford said. “And I wasn’t ready for it, and I can tell you our board wasn’t ready for it because there was no indication he was going to.”
But Ford said he respects Greiner’s decision because it’s a tough job that requires being available all the time, which Greiner was.
The two said they waited to announce the decision partly out of concern that an earlier announcement would’ve made Greiner seem like a “lame duck president.”
Enrollment has generally increased during Greiner’s tenure. Headcount enrollment was about 2,500 last fall, including about 300 graduate students.
Greiner and Ford also noted that West Liberty built and improved multiple buildings during Greiner’s tenure.
Ford said he knew Greiner “would be the person who would take us to that next level, both expanding the curriculum, engaging the students, engaging the students’ parents, and also, quite frankly, improving our facilities. And some of our facilities were a little tired-looking and, also, some of our spaces were mothballed.”
Among the academic programs added during Greiner’s presidency was a bachelor’s degree program for biology majors that’s meant to prepare students to work in zoo and aquarium management.
A university news release also said Greiner helped add two new NCAA Division II team sports: men’s soccer and women’s acrobatics and tumbling.
In the meantime, he oversaw West Liberty’s recovery from a budget deficit, the release said.
He has worked in higher education for 46 years, the last 19 as a college president, and he plans to retire to a home he and his wife already own in North Carolina, the release said.
The Board of Governors plans a national search, and a timeline is forthcoming, the release said.
Greiner was the school’s first non-interim president since Robin Capehart resigned amid alleged ethics violations.
Capehart now leads Bluefield State College, on the other end of the state.
Greiner noted that a possible statewide, mid-fiscal-year budget cut is looming, and he said college infrastructure repair costs are increasing rapidly statewide. His successor may also have a lower budget next academic year.