Catawba president to leave

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2011

Catawba College News Service
Dr. W. Craig Turner, president of Catawba College, has informed the College board of trustees that he will not seek to have his contract as president renewed when it expires May 31.
President of the college since June 1, 2008, urner’s letter to the board said that “It is with genuine sadness that I inform you that I will not seek renewal of my contract with Catawba College that expires on May 31, 2011. While Annette and I have made a number of friends here and have enjoyed many very special times, we have reached this point with the best interests of the college and ourselves foremost in our minds.
“During the past three years,” Turner wrote, “we have grown to love Catawba and its students, and we will miss many things about Salisbury and its citizens. We sincerely hope that the best days for Catawba College are just around the corner.”
Turner succeeded Dr. Robert E. Knott, who retired in 2008 after six years as president.
Turner, 64, came to Catawba as its 21st president from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, where he served seven years as chief executive. Prior to that, he held several positions over nine years — English professor, academic affairs vice president, chief academic officer, and chief operating officer.
Paul E. Fisher, Chairman of the Catawba board of trustees, expressed his regret at receiving Turner’s letter and said that the board has accepted his request and will get to work selecting an interim president and appointing a presidential selection committee.
“Dr. Turner has expended a tremendous amount of energy in leading Catawba,” Fisher said, “and has given his all in service to the college in these very challenging times. The economic environment we are all facing has been particularly rough on nonprofit organizations, especially colleges.”
“The Catawba board is very appreciative of Dr. Turner’s dedication and service and wishes him and his wife Annette the very best in the future. They will be missed in the Catawba and Rowan communities.“
In discussing his decision to leave the College, Turner stressed that he and his wife have loved being in Salisbury and North Carolina. “Catawba is a fine college,” he said, “we have enjoyed our time here, but feel it is time now to look at other opportunities presenting themselves.“
Dr. Turner’s decision to leave Catawba was not a sudden one. Discussions have been ongoing between the  president and members of the board of trustees for some weeks about Turner’s personal and professional goals and the future of the college.
In a meeting of the board Monday, the trustees received and accepted Turner’s letter stating that he did not wish to pursue renewal of his contract.
A review of Turner’s tenure shows that he launched a number of successful initiatives, including:
• Restructured the college’s academic organization into five schools with dean leadership to focus accountability, reviewed all academic programs, curricula and offerings;
• Renegotiated vendor contracts resulting in budget savings;
• Conducted a review of faculty loads, positions, salaries and benefits and initiated cuts and reductions;
• Introduced a series of strategic initiatives on enrollment, curricula, nonacademic programs, balanced annual budgets, marketing efforts, and deferred maintenance;
• Led the effort to reposition the college’s bond debt portfolio;
• Supported a new curriculum proposal for faculty approval;
• Oversaw a number of projects in maintenance, area relations with other institutions, and boosting the college’s student recruitment efforts;
Turner scheduled a meeting of the faculty and staff Thursday morning to inform them of his decision to leave the college at the end of the school year in May.
As Catawba prepares for a change in administration, Fisher reiterated his conviction about the school’s “inherent strength” as a historic, private, liberal arts college of 159 years and the “vitality and professionalism of its board of trustees, who amaze me with their insight, wisdom, and love for this institution.
“Let me add that the entire college community of administration, faculty, staff and students bring talent and insight to the table each and every day, and they are greatly appreciated,” he said. “I also want to point out that despite a challenging economy, year-end gifts to the college were at historically high levels. I believe this support bodes well for Catawba’s future.”