Current SRU President Cheryl Norton will retire on July 21, after serving as the university’s president for five years.
Norton was selected as the new President on April 5, 2012, after having served as President of Southern Connecticut State University for 6 years. She was the first female president at both universities.
Norton grew up in Cleveland, OH and said she had heard of SRU growing up, but it wasn’t until she attended college at Dennison University and became a physical education major, hearing more about SRU because of its exercise science program.
Although hearing about it when she was younger, Norton said the first time she stepped on campus was during her interview for the position, after hearing about the opening from former president Bob Abersold.
“My first response was Bob, this is a really small town,” Norton said. “He said just try it, go there and you’ll like it.”
Norton said visiting the campus sealed the deal.
“When you actually set foot on campus and get a sense of the community here and how welcoming they were and what opportunities there were, I was sold,” Norton said.
Norton started on June 4, 2012 and said one of her first early accomplishments was “botoxing” which she said involved strategically designed initiatives that don’t cost a lot of money, such as new benches and flower gardens. Norton also put more trash and recycling cans on campus to help encourage more recycling.
“That’s become one of my primary focuses, taking care of our environment,” Norton said.
Norton also improved signage on campus.
While some progress was quickly made around campus, Norton said she inherited part of SRU’s financial crisis, brought on by decreasing revenue and higher expenditures.
“We had to act very quickly in order to balance the budget,” Norton said. “We had a challenge and I’m happy to say that we accepted it.”
Norton also said she was happy with how many new programs were added during her time as president, with about 15 undergraduate and graduate programs.
“Obviously this is good for the institution but it’s really good for the students,” Norton said. “And it’s really good for the community to have these professional careers in their backyard.”
Norton said that all of this put the institution on a sharp, positive curve, and that enrollment has shown a steady increase.
“We had the highest enrollment ever in the history of the institution at 8,881,” Norton said. “Which I think we should all be proud of.”
Norton said that she hopes in the future the university still looks at what students need and to keep a focus on bringing students into the institution and helping to make sure they walk across the stage with a diploma.
“We’re really putting an increasing focus on student success,” Norton said. “While we’ve had a good track record I don’t think we should settle for just being good.”
Norton said another thing done under her time was expanding the university’s international presence.
“We need to understand what goes on outside the borders of SRU and western PA,” Norton said. “The only way you can understand it is if you travel abroad or make contact with someone from another culture.”
With graduation next week, Norton said that she hopes graduates this year hold SRU in high esteem.
“I hope they will be part of its (SRU’s) character, and they’ll continue to be a lifelong learner,” Norton said. “And that they’ll continue to develop in their discipline and as a citizen. In other words use your education well as a servant to our community.”
Norton said graduates have a responsibility to use their education for the benefit of themselves and others.
Norton said she plans on retiring with her husband Henry to Denver to spend time with family, but that ultimately it’ll be hard not revolving her life around higher education.
“I’m going to miss that kind of experience,” Norton said. “Students are amazing in their ability to excite and dream and I will miss that. I will forever be grateful for living on this campus.”
A presidential search committee is currently looking for SRU’s next president, hoping to have Norton’s successor named by the spring 2018 semester.