DECATUR — Millikin University President Harold Jeffcoat has announced that he plans to retire immediately, officials said Tuesday.

Jeffcoat took office as the university’s 14th president in April 2011. In a statement, Jeffcoat said he and his wife, Marie, had been thinking about the decision for the past six months.

“Millikin needs to have in place a long-term president. I am at retirement age, and now is a good time for the board to recruit a new president,” he wrote, adding that he wished the best for Millikin and its students, faculty and staff.

Rich Dunsworth, vice president of enrollment, will serve as interim president for the next 90 days, but then he will leave to assume a post as president of the University of the Ozarks.

Dunsworth is set to work with the university’s board of trustees to choose an “acting president” who would serve for the following 12 to 18 months as the board searches for Jeffcoat’s replacement.

Van Dukeman, chairman of the board, said he and the board’s vice chairman had been discussing the possibility of retirement with Jeffcoat for several weeks.

Dukeman said he did not believe there were any particular factors at the university at play in Jeffcoat’s decision.

“It’s sudden, but yet it has been happening over the last couple of weeks,” Dukeman said of the decision. “... I think that he was ready to move on and retire and felt it was the right time for the university to have a more long-term president.”

Dukeman declined to comment on aspects of Jeffcoat’s contract, including its length. When asked if Jeffcoat would continue to receive a salary, Dukeman said he did not consider that “newsworthy” and would not comment.

Peg Luy, former vice president of university development, left Millikin in the fall. With Jeffcoat’s retirement and Dunsworth set to depart, three of the top leadership positions will have opened within months of each other.

But Dukeman said he was not concerned because many other longtime Millikin employees with “tremendous experience” would be able to sustain good leadership. For instance, Dave Brandon, the interim vice president in Luy’s position, has been with the university for more than 16 years.

Additionally, Dukeman emphasized that the university has established “excellent” financial health. He said Millikin has increased its endowment and reduced its debt obligations over the past decade.

“We’ve got a lot of great people here at the university, and many of them long-tenured,” he said. “From the board’s perspective, we feel very good about where the university is at this point.”

The board of trustees chose Jeffcoat in November 2010 from a pool of more than 80 candidates through an extensive national search process.

When he was selected, Jeffcoat turned down another job offer for the presidency of Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. He had previously retired from Texas Wesleyan University in June 2010 after a decade as its president.

In September 2011, he told the Herald & Review that he was not sure how long he planned to stay in his position at Millikin.

“The board has made it possible for me to stay here until I’m well past normal retirement age, whatever that is today, and we’ll just see how it goes at this stage of the game,” he said at the time. “There’s no reason to think that I’ll be just gone overnight or leaving Millikin overnight, but we’ll run as hard as we can as fast as we can for as long as we can.”|421-6986

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