By Johnny Jackson
Gordon College President Lawrence Weill announced Wednesday that he will be stepping down following the spring semester.
"It's been a great run here," said Weill, who has presided over the college in Barnesville since April 2002.
Weill, 56, said his departure as head of the institution is based on several factors.
"Part of it is looking for a new challenge in my life, and a new opportunity in my life to shift gears and do something different," he said. "I think it's a healthy thing for any institution to change leadership ... I've loved my tenure here, and I love the college. That's why I'll be coming back to the college."
Weill said he plans to return to Gordon College as a faculty member in the fall of 2011, after a year-long hiatus to renew his studies in the field of philosophy of education.
"I have been out of my classroom for over 10 years, so I'll be catching up on my reading in my discipline," he said.
Weill has spent the past 34 years in education. He holds a bachelor's degree from Brescia College, in Owensboro, Ky.; a master's degree in humanities from the University of Evansville, in Evansville, Ind.; and a doctorate degree in philosophy of higher education from the University of Kentucky, in Lexington.
He has published numerous papers on topics such as student advisement, peer tutoring and the arts. He most recently published a book about leading institutions of higher education, entitled "Out In Front: The College President as the Face of the Institution."
Prior to becoming president at Gordon College, Weill served as dean of academic affairs at Hopkinsville Community College in Hopkinsville, Ky., where he also served as a member of the Hopkinsville humanities faculty.
Weill has helped lead Gordon College to a new era as it now offers three baccalaureate-level programs, in early childhood education, nursing, and biology, according to Tamara Boatwright, public information specialist at Gordon.
Boatwright said the college is set to open a state-of-the-art nursing and allied health building soon, but has already added a "student success center," four new residence halls and an expanded student center and bookstore.
The college's enrollment has increased by 50 percent, to more than 4,500 students, over the past eight years. Weill said a hefty portion of the enrollment consists of Henry County residents, who make up the single largest geographic demographic at the college.
"I certainly have seen a lot of change in the institution," Weill said. "Some of my colleagues at the presidential level will perhaps see this as a step downward. I do not. I've wanted to be a college professor since I was a child."
Weill grew up in Owensboro, Ky., a metropolis of some 60,000 residents along the Ohio River in western Kentucky. He lives with his wife of 23 years, Jennie Wicker Weill, who helped raise their two sons, Joshua and Orion.
Weill said being a family man contributed to his ability to make decisions and understand their ramifications on Gordon College's faculty, students and their families.
"The welfare of so many people makes you take the job pretty seriously," he said.
Weill believes his decision to step down will benefit the Gordon College as a whole in advancing its higher-education objectives.
"I believe college presidents can serve a great deal by stepping aside at the right moment and letting someone new, with a different vision and a different style, take over," he continued. "That kind of growth is healthy, and will ensure the college continues to advance. A dynamic institution needs to embrace change every so often."
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia is expected to conduct a national search for Gordon College's next president.
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