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The Daily Wildcat


Hart: ‘Sometimes it’s time to move on’

Alex McIntyre
Ann Weaver Hart speaks about her time as UA President in an interview in her office in Old Main on Friday, August 26, 2016.

President Ann Weaver Hart, who will not be renewing her contract when her term ends in 2018, is looking forward to being a full-time UA faculty member as she lays the foundation for the new president’s transition.

Hart, who announced her decision to not extend her contract via an employee-wide email and Arizona Board of Regents press release on June 10, said she’s left her mark on UA and is excited for the future of the university under a new president. The board could pick a new president as early as next year.

“This is my third presidency and my 15th year,” Hart said. “And sometimes it’s time to move on and do something else and do it well and with enthusiasm and I think that’s right for me.”

Hart said her choice to leave was a transitional decision that began last winter and continued throughout the spring semester.

“I absolutely finalized my decision at commencement when I stood there and watched those young men and women and all their families and friends,” she said. “I knew that this was wonderful and exciting and 15 or 16 years is probably enough for anyone to be in that role.”

Hart said her decision to leave was influenced by the fact that she’s turning 70 in 2018 and is ready to refocus what she wants to do with her remaining productive work years.

While the regents were surprised, Hart said they were very supportive of her decision once they understood why she chose to do this now.

“This is a perfect time for me and a great time for a leader succession at the UA,” Hart said.

EDITORIAL: Transparency for public officials is not an expectation. It is a requirement.

New leadership

“I teach leader succession and I do a lot of research in that area, so one of the things I talked with the Board of Regents about in June when I made the announcement is how we can make sure that we have a really a smooth and productive leadership transition for the new president,” Hart said.

She said that, in big corporations, the succession process often takes three to five years and lots of planning in advance in order to do it thoughtfully.

“We in higher education are not, frankly, as good at it, but you can maximize the success of the next leader by thoughtfully laying the groundwork for ways that person can have their own stamp, be a part of the community and also be really successful from the very beginning,” Hart said.

She said in order to ensure this transition, the UA needs to finish their Arizona Now Campaign, complete the implementation of the new $20 million investment into development and lay all the groundwork for the university’s next philanthropic campaign.

RELATED: Arizona Now looks to hit $1.5 billion benchmark ahead of schedule 

“The second really important change that we’ve begun that will launch the new president and give them a chance to really get off the ground quickly, is the change in our honors program that we’ve already begun,” Hart said.

Looking back

Hart, who was inducted in 2012, has spent the last four and a half years creating an integrated financial and academic plan, trying to increase the UA’s influence nationally and to bring in more research funds and grants.

She said a 21st century land grant university needs to be integrated academically and be very grounded in careful financial planning.

Hart said, in the context of the worst recession since the biggest depression in history, the UA has:

Created and implemented the Never Settle Strategic Plan, the UA’s academic and financial strategic plan

Almost reached their $1.5 billion fundraising goal, 22 months ahead of schedule with the largest fundraising campaign in UA’s history, Arizona NOW

Implemented and begun integration of the 100% Engagement Initiative for undergraduates

Taken the UA Colleges of Medicine that were underperforming and brought them into the transnational and comparative effectiveness research world through involvement in projects like the National Precision Medicine Initiative

“The thing I’m the most proud of is the changing expectations that we have of ourselves,” Hart said. “That integration of the financial realities, we [now] face our need to grow, to increase the amount we raise from private philanthropy, the need to integrate with our finances all the time and in every way the academic aspirations that we have for the university, they cannot be separated—the future is what it is.”

Hart said the one thing she would have done differently is spend more time with someone who was deeply embroiled in all the different regional competitions between Phoenix, Tucson and the politics of Arizona as an environment of real turmoil, because it’s taken her some time to understand and feel fully integrated into it.

What’s next?

“I love what I do and I love my colleagues here,” Hart said. “I respect the academic leaders here and the deans and would be honored to have the chance to be a member of the faculty and I’m not particularly interested in being president at yet another institution.”

Hart said she will be joining the UA faculty and has already talked with Gary Rhodes, the director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education, and Ronald Marx, the outgoing dean in the College of Education, about that role and what it will look like.

She added that, since she will no longer be consumed by a presidency, she will have more time to go back to groups that focus on research, publication and teaching.

Hart said she will keep her non-profit board positions and take advantage of new opportunities and will “absolutely” be keeping her board position with DeVry University.

RELATED: TIMELINE: President Hart’s involvement with DeVry in news stories

“I’m looking forward very much to being a full professor with tenure and being able to return to doing what I was doing when I chose this career to begin with,” Hart said. 

Follow Chastity Laskey on Twitter.

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