University of Alabama in Huntsville is going to have a busy 2018-2019 academic year, as current President Robert Altenkirch has announced that he will retire as soon as a suitable successor for university president is chosen and ready to take office.
The UA system released a statement acknowledging the announcement and expressing their feelings on Altenkirch’s eight-year tenure. The overall sentiment appeared to be of appreciation and congratulations.
“When Dr. Bob Altenkirch was unanimously elected president of UAH seven years ago, we knew he was a proven leader with impeccable experience who would guide UAH to new levels of greatness. By every measure, he has surpassed our ambitious expectations,” Board president pro tempore Ron Gray added.
Altenkirch stepped into office in the late fall of 2011 under daunting circumstances. The previous president David Williams had stepped down suddenly, the interim president had just abolished UAH’s division I hockey team, and UA Tuscaloosa was competing with UAH for precious research funding. On top of that, the campus was still recovering from the traumatic events of February 12, 2010, where a biology professor opened fire on a department meeting, killing three colleagues and seriously wounding a few others.
In Altenkirch’s tenure, the hockey program has been revitalized, they have added men’s and women’s lacrosse to their varsity programs, research has continued to be highly ranked and highly funded, and the UAH freshman application pool has practically doubled.
As Altenkirch makes his retirement plans, he does so alongside System Chancellor Ray Hayes. Hayes had previously announced his decision to step down by the end of July 2018. The university system assures that the coinciding retirements will not negatively affect one another or day-to-day operations.
In a time when more and more Americans are having to push back retirement, despite more than 10,000 people reaching retirement age in the states every day, it’s an impressive accomplishment for these two men to reach their personally appropriate time for retirement. Ray Hayes plans to continue working with on- and off-campus groups to continuously support the university’s behavioral health resources; it’s yet unclear whether Bob Altenkirch will have some continued future involvement in UAH, or simply enjoy his retirement.