By Katie Garwood and Mallory Hopkins | firstname.lastname@example.org
In a town hall meeting Monday, Flagler College President William T. Abare Jr. announced he would retire in June 2017 after serving the college for 45 years — 15 of those years as president. After his retirement, he will take on the role of President Emeritus, aiding the college as leadership changes.
Abare served as Dean of Admissions, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Executive Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs before being appointed as President in 2001, taking over for William Proctor who served for 30 years prior. He also won the Everly Bartlett award in May of 2014, from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, for his efforts in preserving Ponce de Leon hall and other historic buildings on campus.
“I make this announcement with mixed emotions because I treasured my time here as president,” Abare said. “Those of you who know me well know that this is a very difficult thing for me to do. I spoke with Donna Shalala, the former president at the University of Miami after she announced her plans to retire. She shared with me the advice of a friend who told her ‘always leave a job when you still love it.’ ”
Abare said that while there is no easy time to step down, the rigors of working as president take a toll over 15 years. While still taking on the role of President Emeritus to aid in a smooth transition, Abare said that he plans on spending more time with his family and watching his grandchildren play sports.
“The work of a college president demands a tremendous amount of time and effort,” Abare said. “It is a 24/7 job. There are a lot of 15 hour days that begin to take their toll. Over the years, I’ve learned there is no end to the work of a college president. There is no natural place where a president can plant a flag, declare victory, and go home. There will always be another initiative to being, another program to get under the way, another project to start and finish, another fundraising effort to map, and so on.”
Abare continued to refer to his success as something that “we” did: “I say ‘we’ because many individuals have contributed over the years,” he said, praising the hard work of the faculty, administration, donors, alumni, and even the students and their parents.
With the time Abare has left, he plans on finishing out his 15 years of progress by seeing plans develop for a new science building and gym on the Flagler College campus. He also wants to see the college meet its enrollment goals, fundraising goals, see its first master’s degree program launch this fall, and complete the current restoration of parts of the historic campus, among other things. “This is not a farewell message, it is a call for readiness,” he said.
A nationwide search for a successor to Abare is in the beginning stages, and is being led by the college’s board of trustees, an appointed search committee and a search consultant.
Frank Upchurch, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, recited a long list of all of the things or events that have improved in the past 15 years of Abare’s presidency. Upchurch is leading the nationwide search for a successor and says he and the search committee are “committed to doing this right.”
Abare added that in the coming months, progress for the college will continue, despite a change in leadership.
“We are not going to rest on our past accomplishments,” Abare said. “We are going to drive looking through the windshield, focusing on the future, and keeping our foot on the gas pedal. There will be no putting on the breaks, or coasting, in my final year as president.”