Washington State University President Kirk Schulz announces plan to retire in 2025

Apr 19, 2024, 7:55 PM | Updated: Apr 20, 2024, 1:01 pm

Washington State University (WSU) President Kirk Schulz, left, and his wife Noel Schulz speak durin...

Washington State University (WSU) President Kirk Schulz, left, and his wife Noel Schulz speak during a video posted on YouTube on Friday, April 19, 2024 about his upcoming retirement from the school. (Image courtesy of WSU/@WSUSystem on YouTube)

(Image courtesy of WSU/@WSUSystem on YouTube)

Washington State University (WSU) President Kirk Schulz announced his plan Friday to retire in June 2025.

Schulz, who was appointed in 2016, disclosed his plans at the end of a Board of Regents, according to The Spokesman-Review in Spokane. Schulz’s retirement was met with “an extended silence from the board,” the outlet added. WSU is based in Pullman.

“These last eight years as president of Washington State University have been some of the best years of my career,” Schulz said in a press release WSU issued Friday. “I am immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished together to educate students, conduct ground-breaking research, and improve the lives of Washingtonians.”

Schulz said he was retiring to make room for “somebody with some new ideas,” to bring a fresh voice to WSU leadership, the Spokane outlet wrote.

“It doesn’t even mean that they have to come in and do everything differently. It’s just sometimes people think you’ve done what you can and it provides some energy and excitement to the organization to be able to do that,” Schulz said in an interview after the announcement, The Spokesman-Review reported. “And I always told people I want the reaction to be to most of the individuals ‘I wish he stayed a year longer’ than ‘He stayed a year too long.'”

What’s next for Schulz?

WSU’s YouTube page also features a short announcement video from Schulz that was posted Friday. In the video, he kept his future plans vague, saying “My primary thing is I want to support my successor to be successful as the next Washington State University president.”

He added that he wants to do “some writing in higher education space and mentor that next generation of public higher education leaders.”

It appears Schulz will, at least for now, be staying in Eastern Washington as his wife, Noel, said in the video she plans to continue serving as a director for the Institute for Northwest Energy Futures and as a faculty member in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.

A look at Schulz’s tenure as WSU president

The university’s news release focused on Schulz’s positive contributions, noting “record-setting gains” in philanthropy. The school stated Schulz raised $167.9 million in private gifts in fiscal year 2023.

WSU received full accreditation for the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine in 2021 and launched Eastern Washington’s first pediatric residency in 2023, the university outlined in its statement. The school also called out Schulz “expanding educational and research facilities across the WSU system.”

The Association of Washington Business, “Washington’s oldest and largest statewide business association,” discussed Schulz’s contributions to employers.

“We have greatly valued the opportunity to collaborate with President Schulz on many of the pressing workforce issues facing employers today,” association President and CEO Kris Johnson said, according to the release. “Kirk and WSU have been important partners in our effort to strengthen the ties between higher education and Washington’s employer community, to bridge the skills gap, and to help employers connect with young people in search of work-based learning opportunities in communities throughout Washington.”

But earlier this year, people working in WSU academics called for Schulz to step down amid the school’s declining reputation and rising debt.

More than 200 faculty members publicly blamed Schulz and other administrators for the school falling 38 points in U. S. News & World Report’s rankings over the last eight years.

“By most critical measures, WSU’s stature has declined precariously under the current leadership,” the faculty wrote in an open letter. “Immediate change in the form of fresh visionary leadership that invests in and empowers academic and research excellence is essential.”

Earlier coverage: WSU faculty call for president to step down amid school’s financial crisis

Schulz launched an initiative early in his tenure titled “Drive to 25” — an effort to get WSU ranked among the top 25 public research institutions in the country by 2030. The plan was retired in 2022.

WSU forced to enter a new era in athletics

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 conference was ripped apart last summer after the league’s leadership failed to land a media rights agreement that would keep it competitive with other power conferences.

USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington (UW) all left to join the Big Ten, while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are headed to the Big 12. Stanford and California were accepted into the Atlantic Coast Conference.

WSU and Oregon State University (OSU) were left behind in the conference chaos and remain the last two members of the Pac-12 and that could have significant economic ramifications for the university in the future.

WSU and OSU plan to operate as a two-team conference, allowable for two years by NCAA rule, and then rebuild. They have a scheduling agreement in place with the Mountain West for football next season and are working on a deal to have an affiliation with the West Coast Conference for basketball and other Olympics sports for two years.

More from Pullman: Lawmakers hear dire circumstances of WSU being ‘Couged’ by ex-Pac-12 schools

The two Pacific Northwest universities also are in line to receive tens of millions of dollars in revenue over the next two years from current agreements the Pac-12 has with the College Football Playoff and Rose Bowl.

Schulz also was the university president when UW hired away former WSU athletic director Pat Chun to be their new AD. Chun came to UW after spending roughly six years running the athletic department in Pullman. He was the first Asian-American athletic director at a power-five school.

Despite the tumultuous time in Pullman, both Schulz and Board of Regents Chair Lisa Keohokalole Schauer said they were confident the university can find its footing before Schulz retires.

“We feel pretty good about the fact that President Schulz has stabilized the Pac-12, has stabilized WSU athletics,” Keohokalole Schauer said, according to The Spokesman-Review. “I think that you’re seeing a board that’s fully supportive of fighting as well.”

Contributing: Frank Sumrall; The Associated Press

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of MyNorthwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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Washington State University President Kirk Schulz announces plan to retire in 2025