UNM President David Schmidly will not return to the University when his contract expires.
Schmidly announced he will not renew his contract Thursday morning in a University wide e-mail. His five-year contract expires June 2012.
“I just felt it was the right time to make the call,” he said in a Daily Lobo interview. “Why wait and wait and wait? I started thinking about it last fall, when I was so ill. There was some time in there I didn’t know if I would come back at all.”
He reiterated that his health was not a factor in his decision. Schmidly, who is recovering from pancreatic cancer treatment that kept him absent during the entire fall 2010 semester, said he wants to spend more time with family and end his career as an educator.
“My health is much better. It’s really heading in the right direction,” he said. “For 40 years, all I have done is higher education work. I got more books to write, more papers to write, and I like teaching. I always said I would not finish my career as a college president.”
Schmidly said he is considering taking a faculty teaching position at UNM. Before he made the announcement to the University, Schmidly talked with Faculty Senate President Richard Wood.
“He seemed quite at peace,” Wood said. “It sounds like he is ready to move on to another stage.”
Schmidly said his decision will allow the University to find a replacement before he leaves. UNM won’t have to hire an interim president as a result of the transition.
“I think this is a good decision for the president and the University,” Wood said. “This allows better than a year to find the next president and help move UNM forward.”
The Board of Regents will select a new president. First, it will put together a search committee. From there, the interview process is unclear.
Wood said the regents have already reached out to the faculty and he hopes faculty will have a substantial role in selecting the new president.
“I think that’s a good first sign, but the devil is in the details,” Wood said. “The thing to keep an eye on is who is on the search committee and how that process works out.”
Schmidly praised Wood for helping to mend the relationship between faculty and the president’s office. In February 2009, the faculty voted no confidence in Schmidly. He said that was the low point of his tenure, but the relationship has improved.
“I faced some tough challenges and I persevered. I’m not perfect,” he said. “Most people are not perfect, but I did the best I can and will continue to do so. This year we did not have a battleground.”
Wood said Schmidly tried his best to hear faculty concerns.
“He heard loud and clear that we had to expand shared governance, and to his credit, he did that,” he said. “He understood the key groups having a place at the table this year, and he’s done that.”
Schmidly said the most recent budget process left him tired, but he felt he could finish out his contract to provide UNM with leadership that will help it reach its academic mission.
“One thing I am not is lazy. When I commit to do something, I do it, so I committed to work for this University for five years, and I’m going to honor that commitment,” he said. “I did the very best I could every day and I tried to be a positive influence for the students, the faculty and the staff.”
For now, Schmidly isn’t ready to talk about how his presidency will be viewed in years to come.
“It’ll be a long time before anyone can say thumbs up or thumbs down,” he said.