CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Longtime West Virginia State University President Hazo Carter said Tuesday he plans to retire in summer 2012 after spending the last 25 years at the helm of the school.
In the meantime, Carter plans to make changes to his administrative team, a university spokeswoman said.
Those efforts already have begun with the unexplained termination of Robert Parker, the university's vice president for finance and a former athletic director. Neither Carter nor Parker made themselves available to comment on that decision.
Carter's retirement announcement follows a vote by State's faculty last week that they no longer have confidence in his leadership. The university professors cited financial problems, declining enrollment and the university's poor public image.
Word of Carter's decision came during an emergency meeting on campus of the Board of Governors' personnel committee. The announcement followed an approximately three-hour-long executive session that Carter attended the greater part of.
"It is an honor to lead this great university," Carter said in a written statement released after the meeting. "I thank the students, alumni, faculty, staff, the Board of Governors and members of the community for offering me such a deeply rewarding opportunity."
Carter became the head of State in 1987 and helped it become a full-fledged university in 2004. He's the longest-serving college president in the state.
Carter is expected to stay at least through the academic year. Vincent Williams, chairman of the Board's personnel committee, said State would begin a national search for Carter's replacement that is expected to last 10 to 18 months.
University officials downplayed the effect of the faculty's "no confidence" vote on Carter's departure.
For instance, in a letter sent this week to university Board of Governors Chairman Larry Rowe, Carter said he had begun preparing for his retirement back in March during a review of the university's strategic plan - and before the faculty vote. Carter said in the letter his announcement this week was "consistent with" those plans.
However, it's not clear that Carter's plans were widely known or that he planned to retire so soon.
In an interview last week with the Daily Mail, for instance, Carter did not mention the March plans or the strategic review, though he said he had seen the "no confidence" vote coming for about six months.
Carter said then he intended to stay but he didn't know how long. He said he saw "no reason" to think he could not continue to lead the faculty just as he has for the last 24 years.
Rowe said he felt like "lightning struck' when he received Carter's letter.
The members of the personnel committee took time to praise State and Carter's tenure.
"It's truly a gem in the valley and a gem in the state, and that would not be possible without you," Board Secretary Tom Susman told Carter during the public portion of the meeting.
The committee also recommended the creation of a "special celebration committee" to raise money and to hold events to celebrate Carter's "life and legacy."
But that legacy may be mixed because of recent events.