Press-Republican

November 5, 2013

Paul Smith's College president to retire


Press-Republican

---- — PAUL SMITHS — After more than a decade as Paul Smith’s College president, John W. Mills will retire on June 30, 2014.

“This is the best job I ever had,” he said in a press release. “I’m making this decision, though, at a time when higher education is facing great change. 

“This is an opportune moment for a new leader to help Paul Smith’s execute that transition.”

Mills, 66, has held the position since 2004.

“I want to thank John for his 13 years of service to Paul Smith’s College and what will be 10 and a half years as president,” College Board of Trustees Chairman John Saunders said in the release. 

“He has done an outstanding job of leading the college and serving as a community leader. His decision to retire is a disappointment to us, but an opportunity as well. 

“We are initiating a search for a leader who can take John’s successes and the college’s opportunities into the future.”

‘TREMENDOUS CHANGE’

Mills joined Paul Smith’s in 2000 as vice president for academic affairs; over his tenure he helped usher the college through a period of rapid transformation, the release said. 

During that time, the college transitioned from a two-year to four-year institution; he helped that effort to succeed and also oversaw some of the largest enrollments on campus since the early 1980s.

Mills also drove award-winning programs to strengthen academic support for students who might otherwise have dropped out of college, the release said.

The college’s Adirondack Watershed Institute, it said, has become a leading voice for the protection of this region’s ecological assets.

Under Mills’s leadership, the campus has undergone tremendous change. 

The Joan Weill Student Center, opened in 2006, has become the center of student life, the release said. Two LEED-certified buildings, the Countess Alicia Spaulding-Paolozzi Environmental Science and Education Center and the Overlook Hall residence hall, have been built. 

An overhaul of the Saunders Sports Complex brought an upgrade to athletic and recreation facilities; two new campus restaurants, The Palm at Paul Smith’s College and the St. Regis Café support the culinary program; and other improvements and countless other campus improvements have taken place.

‘ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT’

“Paul Smith’s, like many institutions, is searching for a new path forward at a time when traditional models of higher education are facing questions of sustainability and value,” the release said, with efforts to attract new students and revenue, including development of such offerings as online classes and industry partnerships.

“An entrepreneurial spirit is needed, and it needs to come from all of you,” Mills wrote the campus community in an email he sent to announce his impending retirement.

“It will be through a combined effort of all at Paul Smith’s College — trustees, administration, staff, faculty and alumni — that we successfully meet those challenges, overcome them and realize our potential. 

“And that potential will be reached if we all work toward that goal together and accept the fact that ‘business as usual’ will not be sufficient,” he wrote.

These are challenging times for most small, private colleges, Saunders said, and while Paul Smith’s isn’t immune, he emphasized that the college’s financial future looks strong. 

The college’s $22 million endowment continues to perform well, he said, and Paul Smith’s is in a position to make investments that will attract new students.

The Board of Trustee’s Executive Committee will meet Wednesday to finalize search plans for a new president.