Illinois State University President Al Bowman has been with the university for 34 years. (Photo by B Corbin/WJBC)
By Eric Stock
NORMAL - Illinois State University President Al Bowman has announced his retirement.
Bowman emailed students, faculty and staff this morning saying that he arrived at a difficult decision after 'long and emotional discussions' with his family, close colleagues and friends.
The 59-year-old Bowman said that he is in good health, but underwent a significant surgical procedure several years ago and he said stepping away from a seven-day-a week position is the 'best thing he can do for his long-term well-being.'
Bowman said this is the best time to make the change.
"I get credit for the successes of the institution, but it's the people in the classrooms, and the labs and the students who are doing the work that are moving us forward. And, I feel good that I can leave on a high note," Bowman said.
Bowman was named president in March of 2004 after serving consecutive terms as interim provost then interim president.
Under his tenure, the school has successfully made private fundraising a priority in the face of the state's ongoing budget crisis. ISU has also reached new enrollment milestones and major construction projects -- including dorm and classroom renovations and the current Hancock Stadium expansion.
"This is an extremely challenging period that we've had, really a tough ten year period with a loss of state support. Many of the other Illinois public universities are struggling with enrollment losses, and Illinois State is financially stable, its enrollment is strong," Bowman said.
Bowman said in the statement that he had initially planned to retire four years from now.
Bowman said he has asked ISU's Board of Trustees to hold a special meeting to begin the search for the next president. Bowman plans to stay on until the next president is in place.
Bowman said he thinks the next president should have an academic background.
"We need someone who buys into what Illinois State is trying to do," Bowman said. "I see situations around the country where new presidents come in and try to turn institutions in a direction that really is not appropriate," Bowman said.
Bowman has been ISU's president for nine years and has been with the university for 34 years.
Bowman said he and his wife Linda plan to stay in the community.
"I plan to teach in the fall and I'll take an office back in my old department in Communication Sciences and Disorders. We both plan to continue to be an integral part of Illinois State," Bowman said.
In a response to Bowman's announcement, State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) said it's a bittersweet day.
"I wish Al Bowman all the best for a long and very happy retirement. He certainly deserves it, and I know how much he’s looking forward to being able to spend more time with his family," Bowman said. "But I’m also sorry to see him go. Al Bowman has been a great leader for ISU, and a great partner for me as I advocate for the needs of the University in the House Higher Education Committee. I look forward to working with whomever the board selects to lead the University into the future, but he or she will certainly have very big shoes to fill.”
McLean County Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Vicki Tilton thanked Bowman for his leadership and dedication to the university and community.
"We are saddened to hear that his time at Illinois State is being cut short due to medical reasons, but fully understand his decision to step down, placing a focus on his health and his family. President Bowman has been a friend to the Chamber for many years, and his presence at Illinois State has helped to foster an open and honest relationship between the local business community and the university," Tilton said. "Under his guidance, Illinois State University has grown exponentially, bringing with it, steady economic growth for the Town of Normal as well as the rest of McLean County. President Bowman will be sorely missed, and we wish him all the best as he transitions from his position with the university.”
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Whisman contributed to this report.