Release Date: August 30, 2010
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- University at Buffalo President John B. Simpson announced today he plans to retire as UB's 14th president, effective Jan. 15, in order return to the West Coast with his wife, Katherine, and spend more time with family.
Simpson, 63, announced his decision at a news conference with UB Council Chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs. Jacobs praised Simpson's strong leadership of the university since 2004, during which time the university launched the UB 2020 strategic plan to become a model 21st century research university through focused research, growth and transformation of UB's three campuses. (To see video of the news conference, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epXMawE0m-Y.)
Jacobs also announced that Scott D. Nostaja, UB's senior vice president and chief operations officer, will serve as interim president following Simpson's retirement. Jacobs will immediately convene and lead a global search for UB's 15th president .
Simpson said his decision to retire was not easy, "but it is one I have made with great satisfaction in all that this university community has achieved together over the past several years, in those areas we control. I retain full confidence that UB can become the premier public research university we have been working together to build."
He added that while his retirement plans are motivated by a personal desire to be closer to family, he would be "less than forthright not to note that this difficult decision has been made somewhat easier by Albany's failure to give UB and SUNY the policy tools and stable support needed to fully achieve this university's great potential.
"UB's promise, and its potential to transform this community, have been threatened severely by repeated budget cuts and, most recently, by the latest setbacks from Albany," he said.
The New York State Legislature this month failed to pass reforms, known as the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which would have empowered UB to generate funding it needs to move more quickly ahead with the UB 2020 plan in the wake of $60 million in state budget cuts to the university.
Despite these obstacles and setbacks, Simpson said he remains steadfast in his belief that "given the proper state support and flexibility it needs to thrive, this university has all of the necessary ingredients to achieve greatness in the 21st century."
Simpson's full statement about his decision to retire is available here.
Among his accomplishments as UB president, Simpson led UB's faculty and administration in a university-wide process of self-assessment and strategic planning that led to the UB 2020 strategic vision. Under the UB 2020 plan, the university crafted UB's first comprehensive physical plan in more than three decades, initiated major building and construction projects totaling more than $500 million on UB's three campuses, achieved substantial university-wide efficiencies in campus operations and forged even stronger partnerships with the community.
Under Simpson's leadership, the Western New York community has embraced and recognized the importance of a research university as a catalyst for economic development and for building a knowledge-based economy that Simpson said is critical to Western New York's future.
A native of California, Simpson was appointed UB president on Jan. 1, 2004, bringing with him more than 30 years of experience in higher education. Prior to his appointment, Simpson held the post of campus provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he served from 1998-2003.
Simpson said it has been an "honor and great pleasure" to serve as UB's 14th president. "Katherine and I have been proud to make our home in this community, and I personally have been grateful to benefit from my rewarding relationships with my colleagues in the higher education community -- locally, nationally and globally."
Simpson said that he and Jacobs feel strongly that Nostaja is the ideal person to guide UB as interim president during the transition to a new UB president.
"Scott's leadership, vision and acumen have made him an indispensable member of the university's senior leadership team over the years, and he has been instrumental in the articulation and implementation of the UB 2020 strategic vision," Simpson said. "Chairman Jacobs and I feel strongly that he is the ideal individual to guide the university in an interim capacity during this pivotal transition period."
Nostaja has served as senior vice president and chief operations officer at UB, reporting directly to Simpson, since May 2010. While at UB, he has undertaken a number of key, university-wide initiatives, among them, strategic planning, operational management, campus physical planning and financial management.
Nostaja was named interim vice president of human resources in 2006, when he was charged with heading UB's human resources transformation, which has helped UB to be recognized as one of The Chronicle of Higher Education's "great colleges to work for."