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Massey Announces Retirement: 'The Time is Right'

By Vickie G. Hampton

For President Walter E. Massey ‘58, a physicist with a propensity for numbers and meticulous calculations, retirement has always been about timing.

Since beginning his presidency in 1995, Massey has said that he wanted to serve his alma mater for 10 years. At decade’s end, he could check off many of his set goals, including the creation of the “academic village” and the culmination of the historic Campaign for a New Century, which surpassed its $105-million goal by $15-plus million. For Massey, the numbers were better than expected. And, though he was satisfied that he had met his goals, he knew that it was not time to leave the College. True to his scientific breeding, he wouldn’t leave until the timing was precise.

Near Massey’s 10-year mark, Willis B. Sheftall ’64 left the position of vice president for Academic Affairs to return to teaching. Not much later, Shirley Williams, chief financial officer, made plans for her retirement known.

"I didn’t think it was in the best interest of the College for the top three senior officers to leave at the same time,” he explained in three different settings: a faculty and staff combined meeting last Wednesday, and the Opening Convocation and a press conference the following day.

But with the new provost, David V. Taylor, in place, and William’s successor joining the College in October, Massey said in the meeting, “Now it’s my turn.”

“The school is in good shape and I feel very good about what has been accomplished. We have a strong board, a strong senior cabinet team and a strong faculty. We have strategic planning and budget managing processes that help keep the College in good financial shape.”

Massey said what helped him finally know the pendulum had truly swung in favor of retirement was his and first lady Shirley Massey’s summer with their young grandchildren.

“It made us realize that there is life after being president,” he said, “and Shirley and I are going to pursue it.”

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