MAILED: Aug. 25, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Chancellor Larry Schnack announced Monday (Aug. 25) that he plans to retire at the end of the fall semester.
Schnack, 60, has been chancellor of the 10,500-student university for 13 years, the longest tenure among UW System chancellors and more than twice the national average for leaders of colleges and universities.
"UW-Eau Claire has been central to my life for the past 32 years," Schnack said. "I leave this job with a great sense of accomplishment and pride."
Schnack broke the news about his decision to retire during the opening meeting of the faculty and academic staff. "I feel that my work here is done, and that it is time to turn the chancellorship over to someone else who will lead UW-Eau Claire through the next series of challenges."
UW System President Katharine Lyall said she plans to name Provost/ Vice Chancellor Marjorie Smelstor as interim chancellor. The Board of Regents will conduct a search process during the coming year to find a permanent successor by the beginning of the 1998-99 academic year.
"The University of Wisconsin System will be losing an invaluable leader with the well-deserved retirement of Chancellor Larry Schnack," Lyall said. "His leadership role as the UW System's most-senior chancellor cannot be overstated. The list of his achievements includes a consistent focus on the quality of undergraduate education and research opportunities, exceptional university fund-raising and development efforts, significant contributions to regional economic development and the quality of life in the Eau Claire region - all during a period of a reduction of state resources provided to the UW System and his campus.
Schnack, the fifth chancellor in UW-Eau Claire's 81-year history, said he made the decision to step down several months ago on his 60th birthday.
"There's a time to come and a time to go, and it's time to go," Schnack said. "I'm healthy, I'm not tired of the job, and I'm under no pressure to leave. I don't want to wait until one of those issues becomes the reason for leaving."
When Schnack was appointed chancellor in 1985, he was able to bridge the gap between the old and the new. He had already demonstrated his ability to work with colleagues and community members during more than 15 years of administrative experience at Eau Claire, including assistant to then-Vice President Richard Hibbard (1970-74), assistant vice chancellor (1975-81), acting vice chancellor (1982-83) assistant vice chancellor (1983-84) and acting chancellor (1984-85), following the resignation of Chancellor Emily Hannah.
"Larry has provided invaluable leadership to this institution," said Smelstor, who joined UW-Eau Claire as vice chancellor in 1990. "It has been a privilege to work closely with him and to learn from him."
Under Schnack's administration the university focused on responsible management of resources, curricular reform, the development of learning and technology resources, and assessment of programs and performance to develop the most effective and efficient means of providing quality higher education. These issues brought about administrative and academic restructuring, tougher admission standards, a redefined baccalaureate degree, and greatly improved access to technology for students, faculty and staff.
"We have a curriculum that has received national recognition, quality students and an excellent faculty and staff," Schnack said in announcing his decision to faculty and staff. "Our budget is sound, the Foundation has a $10 million endowment, our facilities are well maintained, and we are making excellent progress in technology."
He credits the University Planning Committee, which he chairs, for setting the course for most of these changes. Charged with reviewing the university's mission and setting long-range goals, the committee's 1990 report sharpened UW-Eau Claire's focus on instruction and set goals regarding the future of students, faculty and staff, and curriculum.
"This approach to planning has worked and we've been able to accomplish a great deal because of it," Schnack says.
He credits the principles and philosophies of Richard Hibbard and Chancellor Emeritus Leonard Haas for helping shape his values and style. "They insisted on fairness, honesty and integrity, and they demonstrated the value of that approach over and over again."
The ability to work with faculty, staff and students and seek their advice in the decision-making process has been a major aspect of Schnack's style, according to Vice Chancellor Charles Bauer. "Larry is a master at taking an issue to the faculty and staff and to students for their advice and counsel. He truly believes in, respects and uses the principle of shared governance in making decisions."
"While you can't have consensus on every issue, I've always emphasized listening and am genuinely interested in other viewpoints. In a university you're surrounded by highly talented people who have a great deal to offer in the decision-making process." Schnack says. "Often consultation is more important than the decision itself."
UW-Eau Claire's new degree, which was implemented last year, resulted from a five-year consultation process among faculty and staff and students. The degree combines a strong liberal education with the training and skills for specific careers. It recognizes that learning occurs both inside and outside the classroom and is aimed at developing students' communication skills, critical thinking abilities, interpersonal skills, historical perspective, appreciation of the arts and analytical skills.
Schnack was one of the first UW-Eau Claire faculty to use research as teaching. He recalls hiring freshman Steve Burke in 1966 to help him with his research on organic chemical mechanisms. After working with Schnack for four years, Burke went on to graduate school, earned a Ph.D. in chemistry, was awarded a $500,000 Presidential Young Investigator Award by the National Science Foundation, and is now a UW-Madison professor of chemistry with an international reputation for his research in the field of synthetic organic chemistry.
"I'm especially proud that today UW-Eau Claire is recognized as a Center of Excellence within the UW System for undergraduate student-faculty research collaboration, and that this institution is on the forefront of this trend to recognize research as teaching."
During his tenure Schnack also led major reorganization and restructuring initiatives. These resulted in mergers of several departments, the creation of the School of Human Sciences and Services bringing together allied health programs, communication disorders, kinesiology, social work, music therapy and the Human Development Center. The restructuring culminated in 1995 when the six schools became three colleges, eliminating two deans' positions, transferring administrative savings into instruction and decentralizing the administration of graduate programs to the colleges, thus eliminating the need for the School of Graduate Studies.
While these decisions have earned Schnack respect for his ability to respond to fiscal pressures, not all have been universally welcomed on campus or in the community. "You're always faced with balancing the needs of the institution with the needs of the individual," he said. "I hope when I have erred, it has been on the side of treating the individual as kindly and fairly as possible."
Paralleling the organizational and curricular changes of recent years were planning and developing technology to meet the university's mission and program expectations. The renovation and expansion of McIntyre Library, the largest single building project during Schnack's administration, merged information and technology resources in one location, creating a technology resource center for faculty and opening new opportunities for distance education. Students now have access to more than 900 campus computers, resulting in a student-computer ratio that surpasses national benchmarks.
Schnack says the pace of development in technology as well as other aspects of higher education has taught him that change is inevitable and that there will be no shortage of challenges in the future. UW-Eau Claire's future leaders will be called upon to make decisions related to balancing resources with the demand for education, and the challenge will be to maintain quality without limiting access.
"I have long been critical of leaders who make decisions and then don't stick around to see them through. There are plenty of challenges facing this institution in the future, and it's my belief that the next big decisions here need to come from a new leader, someone who will be here long enough to live with the results."
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Aug. 25, 1997