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Thomas W. Krise announced Thursday, April 13 that he will be stepping down from his position as Pacific Lutheran University President this May.
The news came through a campus wide-email written by Krise to the university community. In the letter, Krise noted the progress made during his term and praised PLU’s commitment to its mission. He did not cite any explanation for his sudden departure.
“These five years have been full of challenge and progress, and I’m proud of the hard work and collaborative spirit we Lutes have invested in our beloved institution,” Krise wrote.
Chair of the Board of Regents Gary Severson said Krise had been in conversation with the board for several months before Thursday’s announcement, and the decision was the product of a “very amicable” mutual agreement.
Krise will continue as a professor of English at PLU after his presidential contract ends, according to his letter. The interim President is yet to be announced but will likely inherit a number of projects, including the current budget and a comprehensive fundraising campaign.
Krise’s announcement caught many Lutes off guard, and several students speculated about his reasons for resigning.
“It’s kind of an all of a sudden thing, giving just a little over a month in advance,” junior Kiersten Abler said. “I was slightly confused [when I got the email]. I had to reread it a few times.”
Senior Cara Gillespie wondered if university budget issues played a role. PLU currently faces a $3 million budget shortfall for the 2017-2018 academic year.
“I’m curious to know whether it was his decision or not,” Gillespie said. “It’s risky to have big changes in leadership when you are going through a financial crisis and so I question that.”
Junior Christian Bond said he’s waiting for more information. “He’s just done after five years? It’s interesting […] and [PLU] students are going to want to know more,” Bond said.
Vice President of Student Life Joanna Royce-Davis recognized the range of reactions students, faculty and staff may elicit in light of the news. “Transition comes with mixed emotions,” she said.
“I expect that students and Student Life educators will experience this news and related impacts in a variety of ways, some of them immediate and some of them longer term.” Royce-Davis said. “I appreciate his thoughtful discernment about where he is called to be right now and his continuing investment in and confidence about the direction of the university.”
Amy Young, Chair of the School of Arts and Communication, said she is particularly intrigued by Krise’s decision to remain a professor at PLU.
“I’ve greatly admired the fact that he’s always listed his title as ‘President and Professor of English,’” Young said. “I think it’s interesting he wants to stay. I feel like that speaks to his investment in the community and in the institution.”
The Dean of the School of Arts & Communication Cameron Bennett said Krise’s decision to step down after five years is not unusual. The average tenure for university presidents has fallen from the 8.5 years reported in 2006, according to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
In response to his announcement, a variety of faculty reflected fondly on their time working with Krise in time as President.
“Student Life is grateful to President Krise and Patty for the many ways […] they have engaged student experience and student learning,” Royce-Davis said.
Provost Rae Linda Brown said she’s been impressed with Krise’s enthusiasm and dedication to the students he’s served.
“President Krise also has a love for PLU, in general, that pervades all of his work, whether engaging with students, faculty, staff, donors or Regents,” Brown said. “He believes in its mission and it has guided him in all of his efforts to promote the university widely.”
Other members of university administration have expressed support of Krise’s decision to switch gears.
“He will be missed, but we are all supportive of his decision to focus on what he loves most,” Senior Vice President Allan Belton said. “Fortunately, he also put together a great leadership team and we are all excited to support the next President in moving PLU forward.”
Rhiannon Berg, Genny Boots, Kiana Norman-Slack and Breanna Weirsma contributed to this reporting.
Photo courtesy of PLU Division of Marketing & Communications. 🅼