CMU President George Ross plans to help with capital campaign, teach after he steps down
President George Ross plans to work on Central Michigan University's capital campaign, based out of Metro Atlanta, after he steps down July 31.
The university’s capital campaign begins its public phase in April, Ross said. Ross also plans to help CMU’s next president, if needed.
Ross also plans to teach courses at CMU's main campus in 2019. He has previously taught in the College of Business Administration and has guest lectured in the past. The president said he and his wife, Elizabeth, have been in “serious discussion for the better part of the previous year” about his decision to step down as president.
“We think it’s time for us and we think it’s an opportunity for Central,” Ross said.
Ross announced his decision to step down as president effective July 31 in a campus-wide email issued Jan. 22. The president said he had discussions with the Board of Trustees last fall and in December about whether his contract would be extended.
“We indicated to the board that we were having thoughts about not finishing the current contract, let alone extending beyond it,” Ross said.
Ross said he made a decision early in December to notify trustees that he would step down. Before Christmas, his first grandchild was born.
William Weideman, chair of the Board of Trustees, said it will hire a “nationally-recognized search firm” to help identify CMU’s 15th president. An advisory committee, led by trustee Tricia Keith, will also be appointed and an open forum for community feedback will be scheduled.
Ross said CMU's next president will have challenges regarding support from the public, the preparedness of students coming from the K-12 education system and technological advances. He added that these are challenges at all public universities.
“There’s never a good time for leadership change, because there’s always things going on at Central — at the university,” Ross said. “There are major initiatives going on right now.”
Major initiatives taking place this spring include the academic organizational review, ground-breaking of the Center for Integrated Health Studies, hiring of a chief diversity officer and capital campaign launch.
“I’ll be putting time and energy into all of them,” Ross said of these initiatives. “I don’t think one outranks the other. They have to keep going — they can’t stall and can’t stop.”
Ross said he doesn't think his decision to step down will impact donations to the capital campaign. He said relationships he has made with alumni won’t disappear. Before Ross officially steps down, the 2018-19 operating budget will be approved and tuition will be set. He added that recruiting the high school class of 2019 will start around June.
In 2010, Ross was hired as CMU’s 14th president after serving for two years as president of Alcorn State University. He replaced Kathleen Wilbur, who currently serves as vice president for Government and External Relations. Wilbur was serving on an interim basis after the departure of Michael Rao, who left to become the president of Virginia Commonwealth University.
Ross, who will turn 67 in April, served as CMU’s vice president of Finance and Administrative Services from 2002-2008 before departing for Alcorn State.
“Coming back here was coming home. It was something I never expected,” Ross said. “It was a gift to be able to come back and I tried to treat it like home and treat the people around it like family.”
During his time in office, CMU has opened the College of Medicine, opened a $95 million Biosciences Building and created corporate partnerships with Ford Motor Co. and Quicken Loans.
“There is nothing that I did by myself. You can’t do any of that by yourself,” Ross said. “It requires strong leadership at various levels of the university — strong administrators, strong faculty. There’s been student leadership here that has helped me tremendously as president.”
Ross said the academic rigor is tougher than when he first started, and is proud of that. He said he most proud that CMU has administered degrees to more than 42,000 students during his time as president.
“I do believe the education (students) receive here transforms lives,” Ross said. “I have met too many students and mentored too many students to not know that for a fact.”