Fisk University President Hazel O’Leary has told her school's board of trustees that she will retire at the end of 2012 after more than eight years at the helm of the historically black university.
University officials said they will immediately launch a national search for a successor.
O'Leary, a 1959 Fisk graduate, said her planned departure will let her complete Fisk's 2012 audit and take the next step in its accreditation process. There's also a chance that there will be a resolution before then in the university's lengthy efforts to sell part of the famed Stieglitz collection of American art to an Arkansas museum — an issue that speaks to Fisk's ongoing financial struggles despite posting growth on other fronts.
"President O'Leary stands as one of the most accomplished American women of her generation," Robert Norton, chairman of the FU Board of Trustees, said in a release. "She served at Fisk during a difficult time in its history including cuts in student loans, a tightening of credit markets and a decline in new student enrollment. For eight years she has brought the needed vision, leadership and stability to enhance Fisk’s position as a highly ranked liberal arts university."
O’Leary was appointed president of Fisk in August 2004. Before that, she had served as secretary of energy during then-President Bill Clinton’s first administration, was chief operating officer of an investment firm and held various corporate positions in the energy sector.
"Each member of the Fisk Family has contributed to our relentless quest for measurable improvement in our academic and student support programs," O'Leary said. "The public record indicates that Fisk has achieved top tier performance among liberal arts institutions in academics, student retention and engagement. While much remains to be done, I am confident that Fisk, the institution I love and have led these past eight years, is in better shape than when I arrived, and it will continue to enjoy a long and distinguished legacy.”