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San Diego State President Will Step Down

Above: A student walks by Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union at San Diego State University, Sept. 24, 2016.

San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman has announced he will be leaving after six years as the head of the region's largest university.

SDSU

San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman is shown in this undated photo.

Hirshman released a statement Wednesday saying he has accepted the presidency of Stevenson University in Maryland and will begin his term there July 1. His last day at San Diego State will be June 30.

"Elliot has made an incredible impact on San Diego State University,'' California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White said. "His focus on academic excellence and on life-changing educational opportunities for students from all backgrounds has contributed to SDSU's emergence as a top public research university."

During Hirshman's tenure, SDSU has raised its profile as a major public research university and moved up 37 spots in the U.S. News & World Report's ranking of America's best colleges. The university has also implemented an integrated budget and financial strategy and raised more than $785 million in donations for scholarships and new initiatives.

"He has without a doubt improved San Diego state during his tenure," said journalism professor Marcie Bober-Michel, the chair of the University Senate at San Diego State. "We’ve had our first very successful fundraising effort. That goes to improving academics for students."

RELATED: Students Call For SDSU President’s Resignation

SDSU was under fire last year after its lack of response to what critics called Islamophobic fliers. Some college leaders even asked Hirshman to resign.

On one occasion demonstrators blocked a police car he tried to leave the campus in. They were protesting Hirshman’s decision not to condemn the flier, which identified students and claimed they were sympathetic to terrorist groups.

Mary Ruth Carleton said she did not think the clash with students figured into Hirshman's decision to step down. She speaks of the incident as having been a learning experience.

“It was one of those things where it gives a university an opportunity to get together and have better communication," Carleton said.

The president said he decided to step down now because he wants to pursue new personal and professional opportunities.

"While many factors influence presidential transitions, the progress of our strategic plan, the conclusion of our first comprehensive fundraising campaign and the completion of multiple construction projects all suggest a time to consider new personal and professional opportunities," he wrote.

SDSU will appoint an interim president, and then the college will launch a national search for the next president.

Below is Hirshman's statement.

I am writing to inform you that I have accepted the presidency of Stevenson University in Maryland effective July 1. I will end my service at San Diego State on June 30.

The last six years have been the most extraordinary period of my and Jeri’s professional lives. The opportunity to work with the dedicated and talented students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters of San Diego State has inspired us, and it has been a privilege to contribute to the growth and development of this great university. We are grateful for the many friends in this community who have helped us celebrate our university’s achievements and supported us as we faced the inevitable challenges of a university presidency. These friendships have greatly enriched our lives.

It is traditional in such messages to recount the university’s recent accomplishments. We are fortunate that through the diligent efforts of our university leadership we have already documented our university’s progress in updates to our strategic plan, “Building on Excellence.” A comprehensive review is linked here. It is gratifying to see that many of the aspirations of our plan have been realized in our focal areas of student success, research and creative endeavors, and community and communication.

While many factors influence presidential transitions, the progress of our strategic plan, the conclusion of our first comprehensive fundraising campaign and the completion of multiple construction projects all suggest a time to consider new personal and professional opportunities. Inspiring confidence in SDSU’s future are the collective ambitions of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters; our stable budget; our experienced provost and vice-presidential leadership team; our exceptionally strong deans and associate vice presidents; and our collaborative tradition of shared governance.

In this context, CSU Chancellor White will be visiting campus shortly to gather perspectives on desired characteristics for the interim president. Following the interim appointment, Chancellor White will launch a national search for the next president.

Thank you for your dedicated support over the last six years. I look forward to seeing San Diego State’s continuing progress in the years ahead.

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