Slippery Rock University President William Behre announced he will retire next year after serving the university since 2018.
His retirement, set for June 30, 2023, will conclude his fifth year as SRU’s 17th president.
“It has truly been an honor to serve as the president of this institution,” said Behre in his Tuesday email to the campus community. “From the moment my wife, Leah, and I stepped on campus the community greeted us warmly and welcomed us in as one of their own. That feeling of family and belonging is something we will carry with us well beyond our days at The Rock.”
Behre said he believes the university has made great progress fulfilling the “ambitious agenda” he laid out back in 2018, despite the unprecedented time SRU found itself with the COVID-19 pandemic. The fallout of the pandemic lead to an extended spring break in 2020 and a majority of learning taking place remotely through fall 2020 and spring 2021.
To make sure students who were away on spring break were prepared to move to remote instruction, Behre started an initiative called “Connectivity” that loaned 30 laptop computers to students and provided a dozen more with technical and financial assistance for internet.
“The pandemic has been the greatest single disruption to higher education, and life in general, in my lifetime,” Behre said. “I imagine that the Great Depression or World War II would be the closest relatively recent comparators to the level of disruption that we experienced.
“And, just as our campus community came together during those crises, we came together during this one. Our faculty and staff worked to make sure that our students got what they needed to advance their education, albeit in a manner that we never anticipated.”
Behre also established efforts to donate personal protective equipment from university laboratories and classrooms to local first responders.
“That was a great example of SRU helping to address an important community challenge,” Behre said. “We were fortunate to have these supplies and to be able put them to good use by delivering them to local health care providers.”
With the intent that SRU must plan for a post-pandemic world, Behre said he wanted to give the council of trustees and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) plenty of time to select a new president and allow for a “smooth transition.”
For the next 16 months, Behre plans to stay focused on setting the next president up for success and has set three goals for the rest of his time on campus, including:
- Stabilizing the near-term budgetary outlook for the university with a focus on emerging from the pandemic on strong financial footing.
- Continuing to build the physical and organizational infrastructure to meet the commitments that the university has made, including continuing to invest in the work of its recently hired chief diversity officer.
- Completing the strategic plan.
“Continuing to focus on these three key areas will help us to recapture our pre-pandemic momentum, which will serve the university, and its next president, very well,” Behre said
After retirement, Behre and his wife will move to Kennebunk, Maine in order to be closer to family.
SRU will begin searching for its 18th president in the next few weeks, according to the email.
The university’s last presidential search that selected Behre was overshadowed by controversy when the council of trustees failed to send candidates to the PASSHE Board of Governors during its first selection round.
Two years after that vote and the subsequent hiring of Behre, Amir Mohammadi, then vice president of finance for SRU, sued the university, PASSHE and SRU trustee Robert Taylor for discrimination. Mohammadi, who now serves as SRU’s vice president for administration, global engagement and economic development, claimed he was discriminated against because he is Iranian and Muslim, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court.
Mohammadi’s lawsuit was settled through mediation in June 2019.