Limbert to retire as MUW president in 2010

Published 1:57 am Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mississippi University for Women president Claudia Limbert will retire when her contract ends June 30.

Limbert made the announcement Monday during a news conference on the MUW campus in Columbus.

Limbert, who became the school’s leader in 2002, said her years at the helm have been a “fantastic journey.”

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Her tenure has been marked by a contentious effort to rename the university, battles with the school’s former alumnae association and the rebuilding of parts of the campus devastated by a tornado shortly after she was named president.

Limbert in August announced Reneau University as the school’s choice for a new name. The College Board has not yet approved the change.

“Now that the goals we set out to meet have been accomplished or set in motion, it is time for another to take the reins, Limbert said in a statement. “It is also time for me to be with my family and concentrate on something that I long to get back to — writing.”

Limbert, 68, said she made the announcement so the state College Board can begin the search for a new president.

“In the next nine months, we’ve got a lot of challenges facing us with the budget, but we’re going to get through that just like we’ve gotten through everything else,” she said.

The state College Board is expected to accept Limbert’s retirement request and discuss the university’s transition during a two-day meeting that begins Thursday at Alcorn State University in Lorman.

Limbert was an executive officer at Pennsylvania State University in DuBois, Pa., when she was chosen to succeed Clyda Rent as MUW’s president, becoming the school’s 13th leader.

She said accomplishments during her tenure at MUW include a new honors college and a fundraising effort that’s resulted in the university’s largest gift — $3 million for leadership training. She said enrollment is up 17 percent since 2002. The school’s enrollment this fall is 3,099.

A native of the Missouri Ozarks, Limbert is a first-generation college graduate in her family. At 35, after settling down and starting a family, she decided to pursue higher education.

Limbert, a married mother of four children, graduated from Bethel College in Kansas in 1978 with triple majors in English, History and Education.

She received her Master’s in Creative Writing in 1980 from Boston University and a Ph.D. in English Literature in 1988.

“Dr. Limbert has a compelling personal story that has clearly guided her unique approach to academics and institutional life,” board member Amy Whitten said in a statement. “She has encouraged her students to believe in themselves and recognize the value of getting a quality education because she knows firsthand how important these two things are.”

Senate Universities Committee Chairman Doug Davis, R-Hernando, said he admires Limbert’s passion for higher education and her commitment to the students.

“She’s never been satisfied with the status quo,” Davis said.

Founded in 1884, MUW was originally known as the Industrial Institute and College (for the Education of White Girls of the State of Mississippi). The name was changed to Mississippi State College for Women in 1920 and again in 1974 to Mississippi University for Women.

The school began admitting men in 1982 after a long legal battle, and its male population stands at nearly 16 percent today. Limbert has said she’s pushed for a name change because the school is still perceived as being female only.

The final decision to rename the university rests with the Legislature.

“We’ve done everything here on the campus we can do about that,” Limbert said of the name change.