Rocky Mount, N.C.—North Carolina Wesleyan College President James A. Gray III announced Friday that he will retire as full-time president of the college at the end of the academic year in May. He will continue to work part-time during the 2014-15 academic year to help Wesleyan and the City of Rocky Mount move forward on three major initiatives that are currently under way.
“I have decided to slow down a bit after almost six years as president,” Gray said in making his formal announcement to the college’s Board of Trustees at their annual fall meeting October 4. “The average tenure of a college president is about five to six years, and I know now that to do the job right takes full physical and emotional immersion 24/7/365. My seven grandkids call me Chief, and I need to spend more time with them in my Chief’s head dress than in my president’s academic cap.
“My second reason for stepping down,” Gray said, “is that I believe the school is on a sustained and sustainable upward trajectory, which was my personal goal when I came to Wesleyan. It has been the signature honor of my life to serve as Wesleyan’s sixth president.
“I have accomplished nothing alone,” Gray added. “With the help of the college’s Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters, we have moved Wesleyan forward in our mission to transition from a good school to a great school.” Over the summer, the college completed $3.5 million in renovation of Edgecombe Residence Hall and the Hartness Student Center and construction of the Southern Bank Green.
Wesleyan Board of Trustees Chairman Dewey G. Clark said, “All of the board members, and I personally, are grateful to Jim for the positive contributions he has made at the college for the last five years. He and his wife, Beth, have meaningfully contributed to Wesleyan as well as to the Rocky Mount community, and they have brought the city and Wesleyan closer together. Jim and Beth both have made a lasting impact at the college, and both will be greatly missed.
“I’m glad that Jim will work with us part-time in the next academic year. That way, he can continue helping Wesleyan become an even better college for our students across Eastern North Carolina and the Wesleyan community.”
Clark said the board will immediately launch a national search for the college’s seventh president. “The board feels confident that it will find a quality candidate,” he said. “We are committed to spending whatever time and resources it will take to find the right individual to be Wesleyan’s next president.”
Gray said he will be working in the 2014-15 academic year on three projects that are very important to Wesleyan and to him. One of the projects is the Eastern North Carolina Center for Business & Entrepreneurship, launched in August. The center will expand Wesleyan’s popular business administration program through a new concentration in entrepreneurship and promote job creation in Eastern North Carolina by strengthening small business development. Gray will serve as non-executive chairman of the center’s advisory board.
A second project will involve fundraising for Wesleyan’s “Strength of Heart” capital campaign, which already has received more than $6 million in commitments toward a goal of $20 million, Gray said. Funds will be used to renovate Wesleyan’s four original residence halls and student center, construct a new classroom building to house the Business & Entrepreneurship Center, and increase funding for student scholarships and grants.
In addition, Gray will remain chairman of the Rocky Mount Organizing Committee, which brought the USA South Spring Sports Festival to Rocky Mount last spring. The committee is working to bring that athletic event, with its thousands of participants and supporters, back to the area again next year and possibly in 2015. “Wesleyan is proud and grateful over our enhanced relationship with the City of Rocky Mount and the wonderful people here,” Gray said. “There is much left to be done at Wesleyan, such as hitting our ambitious goals for Traditional Program enrollment, but we are well on our way.” Gray said current enrollment in both the Traditional and the Aspire adult degree programs is 1,587, the highest since 2006.
“The number of new Traditional students has increased for the last two years, but we have not reached our goal of 350. I am disappointed over that but determined to make goal. . The Aspire program has gone from 692 students in fall 2009 to the current 937. Aspire locations in Eastern North Carolina have increased from three to nine. I firmly believe that Wesleyan is on its way toward the goal of becoming the dominant adult degree educator in Eastern North Carolina, as well as America’s next great college.”