Faced with growing tension from some faculty, students and alumni, Gustavus Adolphus College president Jack Ohle has announced his intention to retire from the private liberal arts college in St. Peter, Minn.
Ohle, 66, said he will retire on June 30, 2014. The move comes amid a continuing torrent of criticism over his leadership style and strategy for the school. One survey of faculty members indicated that some question Ohle’s priorities of investing in new buildings and public relations while cutting departmental budgets and minimizing the faculty’s voice in collegiate affairs.
The controversy has been fueled by a whistleblower website called GustieLeaks, impassioned entreaties from students posted on YouTube, and petitions calling for Ohle’s ouster.
Ohle could not be reached for comment Saturday, but in an interview with the Mankato Free Press he said he simply wanted to retire. By the end of his tenure next year, he said, he’ll be 67 years old, adding, “You reach a time in life when you wish you didn’t have to retire. [But] you could only work so long.”
Max Hailperin, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said Saturday he wasn’t surprised at the news. “This has been a truly difficult period for us,” he said. He and Ohle “are in agreement about Gustavus’ goals, but commonly in disagreement over the best methods of reaching those goals. … He and the faculty were having trouble coming to a point of mutual respect and confidence that it takes to work together.”
Hailperin, a 23-year Gustavus faculty member and a professor of mathematics and computer science, said the faculty looks forward to helping “conduct a quality search for a successor. We are looking forward to turning the page.”
A news release issued by the college touted Ohle’s completion of Beck Academic Hall, the Sesquicentennial Plaza, the West Mall, as well as plans for the renovation of the Anderson Social Science Center and the Nobel Hall of Science.
He was also credited with enhancing the college’s relationship with Sweden, including a visit by the country’s royalty, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia, last year and the creation of six endowed faculty chairs.
Ohle also was credited with building the college’s endowment. A goal of $150 million by Homecoming 2015 has been established — at the end of June, gifts and commitments to the campaign had passed $107 million.
A native of Ohio, Ohle has spent more than 40 years in higher education administration. Before coming to Gustavus, he served as president of Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, for 10 years.