After serving eight years as the president of Texas Lutheran University, Stuart Dorsey will step down at the end of academic year.

Dorsey announced his retirement date of June 30, 2019, to a small auditorium filled with faculty and staff on Tuesday morning in Ayers Recital Hall.

“One of the hardest decisions any college president has to make is when to step away,” he said. “After considerable reflection and prayer, I’ve concluded that the time is right for a presidential transition.”

During his tenure, Dorsey has seen an abundance of growth and change across the campus in programming, facilities and campus identity and recognition.

“Since 2010, our actions have been guided by some broad goals, the strategic plan that we adopted in 2009,” he said. “That plan, along with our annual action plans, affirmed TLU’s identity as a residential, faith-based, undergraduate, liberal arts university."

Some of that planning, he said, involved recognizing the post-recession reality.

“Our underlying strategy has been investment in our core identity and to maximize the value of a residential campus experience.”

Changes included implementation of the nursing program, the expansion of Jackson Auditorium into the Caroline Weston Center for the Performing Arts, the construction of Centennial Hall, the addition of a football stadium and renovations and upgrades to the softball and baseball stadiums.

Time to step away

With a bulk of the strategic plan and a large portion of the master facilities plan having come to fruition, Dorsey said the time is right.

“I believe it is now time to look ahead to set new goals and aspirations for the next decade and revisit our fundamental strategy,” he said. “That is an exciting prospect, and we need to get started. However, taking the next step forward requires a president who can make a commitment to TLU for several years, unfortunately, I’m at a point in my life where I am unable to make that commitment.”

Dorsey’s tenure

Dorsey took over the reins as the 15th president of TLU from interim president Robert Vogel in July 2011. In 2014, the TLU Board of Regents offered Dorsey a five-year contract, which he accepted.

“That was also a time when stability and leadership was needed,” he said. “We were dealing with a lot of issues at that time. I was happy to make that commitment and thanks to that leadership of our board of regents, the support of our alumni and friends, and most importantly your hard work, much of this agenda has been accomplished. Enrollment and budget have proven stubborn, but both are moving in a positive direction.”

The president also pointed out the role his wife, Michelle Dorsey, played in helping to build the campus up.

“When we started here, Michelle’s goal was to raise the perception and visibility of the university locally and nationally and make our students more proud of their university and themselves,” he said. “I think she has clearly succeeded in that.”

Words of praise

TLU Board of Regents chairman Lewis Westerman said Dorsey was a strong leader who made significant contributions to the campus with his service to the university and many achievements that brought the school numerous recognitions and honors over the years.

“The milestones achieved under his leadership touched all of the key measures of a successful, faith-based, liberal arts and sciences university,” he said. “The warmth and endearing engagement the Dorseys share with all of TLU’s constituencies will be greatly missed, but as with everything else President Dorsey does, I know he will leave his successor with a solid foundation for continued future success.”

Work to do

With almost a year remaining as the leader of the local university, Dorsey has his sight sets on creating a path for his successor to follow.

“My two primary goals are filling our commitment to the board to reach a balanced budget and completing the campaign for TLU, which we’ll announce this week,” he said. “The goal of that campaign from the outset has been to celebrate our successes, but most importantly to set the stage for future growth. Now we can add to that preparing the way for a new president.”

The decision to step down didn’t come easy, however, President Dorsey knows it is the right decision.

“I’ve done my best to put the interest of TLU first in this decision, we owe that to this place,” he said. “TLU truly has been a gift from God. Truly. And it is clear to Michelle and me that this is where we were meant to be. You welcomed us, you held us up, not just in those joyous times ... but times when our enrollment fell and we had to make hard budget decisions. Any campus can be happy during prosperity, but it is in the later that TLU has earned the right to be called a great college to work for.”

What’s next?

At the end of the year, the couple will move on, although Stuart didn’t specify as to where.

“The best thing that a former president can do for the incoming president is to get away. We’ll get away,” he said.

Which is the hardest part of their decision, Michelle said.

“I have gotten to know everyone in the community and it was very difficult because we are going to leave because these are our friends and we’ve become part of the community,” she said. “I don’t want to say ‘goodbye.’ I know it is the right thing to do, but I don’t want to do it because Seguin has been so good to us, TLU has been so good to us but it is the right thing to do and that is what we are going to do.”

The presidential search has already begun.

“Let’s all get to work and set up the 16th president of Texas Lutheran University to be our most successful yet,” Dorsey said. “This is a great place to be. There will be a lot of interest in this position.”

Felicia Frazar is the assistant editor of the Seguin Gazette. She can be e-mailed at felicia.frazar@seguingazette.com

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