Bennett announces retirement

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University President Linda Bennett announced her retirement at Tuesday’s fall faculty and administration meeting.

Holding back tears from the podium, Bennett thanked students, faculty, administration and support staff for making the university a community that she is “very proud to be a member of.”

“Its really that time in my life,” she said. “You reach some of the milestone birthdays and you decide maybe it’s time for a change. We are looking strong and the combination of it’s a great time for the university makes it a great time for me.”

Bennett said she wanted to make the announcement when all the faculty were back on campus because she wanted them to hear it from her first.

A Cincinnati, Ohio native, she received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree from the University of Cincinnati.

With over 25 years of teaching experience, Bennett has taught, chaired departments or been a dean at Wittenberg University, Northern Kentucky University and Appalachian State University.

Bennett started at the university in 2003, serving as vice president of academic affairs before being selected as provost. She became president in July of 2009.

She said one of her primary goals when she became president was to make sure the quality of the academics were better known.

“I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of is the reputation of the university is better known than when I first arrived here many years ago,” she said “The quality has always been there, we just have been a bit too modest and we need to shout it out more. We need to let folks know the academic quality of USI.”

Bennett’s run as the third president at USI will come to an end June 30, 2018. The university Board of Trustees will announce plans in the fall to begin a national search for her successor.

“Remember our history,” Bennett said as advice for USI’s next president. “We were created to provide opportunity access to higher education and we were created to be a driver of economic development in this region for the state.”

Faculty Senate chair Peter Whiting said he was saddened to hear Bennett’s announcement.

“I remember when she came to interview for the provost, I thought she was the perfect candidate,” he said.

Whiting said the announcement also came as a shock to him.

“She has had a lot of impact on campus and has really transformed the campus and she has been a good president for USI,” he said. “We were really lucky to have her.”

Bennett is the second university President in Evansville to announce their retirement this summer. University of Evansville President Tom Kazee announced in early July his plans to retire following the end academic school year May 31.

“It was emotional for all of us,” Provost Ron Rochon said. “Dr. Bennett is a beloved individual on our campus. She has dedicated her life to this university and given so much to the campus community.”

Rochon, who said he knew about Bennett’s retirement before her announcement on Tuesday, said three words come to mind when he thinks of Bennett: accessible, humble and principled.

“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I know this is a season in her life that she wants to engage but I feel that we need her here.”

Bennett hired Rochon as Provost in 2010. Rochon said he cares a great deal about Bennett and said she was one of the main reasons he moved to southern Indiana from Buffalo, where he served as dean of the College of Education at Buffalo State College in Buffalo, N.Y.

He said one of the first things Bennett asked him to do was to bring student affairs and academic affairs together.

“When I came here Dr. Bennett said ‘Ron, this campus was developed by the people, for the people,’” he said. “I have come to learn and appreciate that like no other campus before.”

Rochon said he has tremendous respect for Bennett’s intelligence, but believes it’s her kindness that makes her a great leader.

“I remember she and I were walking on campus one day and i was just in total awe of the beauty of this place and she said ‘Ron wait until you meet the people,’” he said. “The brick and mortar is amazing, it’s wonderful, but it’s the people that make this place special.”

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