Wim Wiewel announces he will retire in 2017 after nine years as PSU president

Portland State University President Wim Wiewel announced Tuesday he will retire after the next academic year, leaving a legacy of growth in enrollment, campus infrastructure, student support, faculty research and private philanthropy. 

“It is with mixed emotions that I’m announcing that this coming academic year will be my last one as PSU president,” Wiewel said in a message to faculty, staff and students. “By that time, I will be 67 years old and will have served nine years, and I want to have time to pursue some other interests.” 

Under his leadership, Portland State has grown to more than 29,000 students, becoming the most diverse university in Oregon. He also spearheaded nine major construction projects, paved the way for PSU’s first independent Board of Trustees, expanded student support services and developed innovative “reTHINK PSU” initiatives and a five-year roadmap that chart the future of the university.          

“I can think of no other place that takes its mission of providing opportunity and access to excellence, through deep engagement with its region, as seriously as we do,” Wiewel said.  “Many challenges as well as opportunities for future growth and excellence remain, but I am grateful for all that we have been able to accomplish together.”  

Peter Nickerson, chair of the PSU Board of Trustees, praised Wiewel’s leadership and said he will be hard to replace. 

“The contributions that Wim has made both to Portland State and the Portland community have been immeasurable,” Nickerson said. “In my experience with Wim in my role as trustee, I’ve seen him be ahead of the curve on every major issue. Whether it was in developing a strategic plan, enhancing campus safety or working to create more scholarships for students, Wim was leading us.”

Nickerson said a search for Wiewel’s successor will start soon and take months, with a goal to have a new president in place in a year’s time. The board will hire a firm to do a national search and recruit and vet candidates, he said, adding that the process will involve both campus and community leaders.     

“While we can never replace Wim, I’m confident that we will find the right person to take Portland State to the next level,” he said. “Finding that person will be the most important job this board will have.” 

During Wiewel’s tenure as president:  

  • Student enrollment increased from 23,999 in fall 2008 to 29,057 last fall. More than 40 percent of freshmen at PSU were students of color last fall. The number of Latino students has more than doubled since 2008 to 2,590 students.    
  • The number of annual undergraduate degrees increased by 20 percent since 2008 to 5,817 this year.   
  • Student advising and support programs have expanded, including the establishment of a center for students with children and cultural centers for Latino, African-American and Asian/Pacific Islander students.    
  • Completion or renovation plans underway for nine buildings, including the Collaborative Life Sciences Building, the Academic and Student Recreation Center, Science Research and Teaching Center, Karl Miller Center for the School of Business, Lincoln Hall, Neuberger Hall and the Viking Pavilion  
  • Annual externally funded research increased from $40 million to more than $65 million. 
  • Annual private giving has increased from $12 million to more than $30 million.
  • PSU’s stature has grown in national rankings, including U.S. News & World Report naming PSU as the only Oregon university ranked in the “Top 10 Up-and-Coming” and “Top 20 Most Innovative” categories. 
  • Developing a five-year plan focusing on student success, excellence in teaching and research, community engagement, equity and long-term stability. 
  • Developing “ReTHINK PSU” innovations that include a four-year degree guarantee for students, creating more online and flexible degrees and other programs to support student success. 
  • Cementing ties with Oregon Health & Science University that include a new joint School of Public Health and the CLSB partnership on the South Waterfront.  
  • Establishing an office of Global Diversity and Inclusion headed by a vice president on the president’s executive committee. 
  • Securing an urban renewal agreement with the city of Portland that generates $25 million for campus improvements. 
  • Establishing a College Affordability and Success Coalition with local business leaders that seeks $25 million a year for need-based student scholarships.  

Under the terms of his contract approved by the board a year ago, Wiewel will be eligible for a paid sabbatical upon retirement as president and then return to campus with a faculty appointment in the College of Urban and Public Affairs. Wiewel, a nationally known scholar in urban planning and civic engagement, will continue to work on university-community engagement and sustainability issues when he returns to PSU. 

“I will work with the Board of Trustees to ensure a smooth transition and after a sabbatical, I look forward to returning part-time as a professor,” he said.  

President Wiewel’s letter to campus announcing his retirement: