MOUNT PLEASANT, Michigan (WJRT) - (01/22/2018) - Central Michigan University President George E. Ross announced on Monday that he plans to step down on July 31.
He has served as the university's 14th president for the past eight years.
Ross said he had mentioned to the Board of Trustees last fall that he was considering leaving before the end of his contract in 2019.
He described the move as strictly a personal decision that he and his wife Elizabeth made together. Ross mentioned the recent birth of his first grandchild, a preemie, as factoring into his decision to do this now.
"It's time now," he said. "That's a nice arbitrary cut off. I could have asked the board to extend it to 2020, they would have done it."
"It feels right now," Ross added. "And I think the family obligations weighed on me a little bit, so it just feels right."
Timing-wise, Ross said he'll be leaving the university in a strong position for the next president.
"I believe we're a strong university right now, " Ross said. "If there's going to be a leadership change, I want to be able to hand the university off to the next president, who inherits a strong university and build on its strength."
During his eight years at the helm, Ross is most proud of opening the College of Medicine, improving the university's research profile and graduating 42,000 students.
"In my mind, we've transformed 42,000 lives," Ross said. "That's probably what I'm most proud of."
His tenure wasn't all smooth. Last spring, CMU faced a $20 million dollar budget shortfall and had to lay off 13 staff members.
"Budget adjustments are always challenging," he said. "I wouldn't say it was the most challenging. We've always had a balanced budget at Central. I was the CFO here, since I've been president, we do make the financial responsible decisions at this university. That has led to a very strong financial performance overall by the institution."
The school ended up raising tuition by 2.9 percent, but Ross maintains for the past eight years CMU has had the lowest cumulative tuition increase in Michigan.
The school, like many in the state, is also facing declining enrollment numbers. Ross said they're down about 2 percent over last year.
As for his legacy, the outgoing president said he hopes students will remember him as the president who really cared about their education and cared about them.
Ross will assist with the transition to the 15th president. He also said he plans on returning to classroom in 2019.
Ross has served CMU for more than 13 years. Prior to assuming the presidency, he served the school as vice president for finance and administrative services.