After nearly 14 years serving as the 14th president of his alma mater, Clemson University President James F. Barker has announced plans to retire from that position and return to the classroom.
“Last week, I asked the board of trustees to begin a search for the 15th president of Clemson University. I have pledged to remain until the new president is on board. I will then begin preparing myself for my next career as a faculty member in the School of Architecture,” he said.
“There is never a perfect time for a transition in leadership, but certainly a very good time is when a university is in high demand, able to attract outstanding faculty, staff and students, enjoys strong support from alumni and friends, is financially healthy, and has a strategic plan that is firmly supported by its governing board. That is exactly where Clemson finds itself today,” Barker said.
A 1970 Clemson graduate, Barker was named president in 1999 with a mandate to lead Clemson into the top ranks of American universities. At his inaugural address in April 2000, he said: “I am convinced that there is no university in America stronger than Clemson when we are ‘One Clemson.’ A united Clemson is unstoppable.”
For his leadership, Barker has received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, and has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina State University, and Mars Hill College.
Board Chairman David Wilkins said, “It is difficult to find words to express how much Jim Barker has meant to Clemson University. Clemson is a far better institution today because of his leadership, vision and dedicated service. We know that there is no replacing Jim Barker, only succeeding him.”
A native of Kingsport, Tenn., Barker received his bachelor of arts degree from Clemson in 1970 and his master of architecture and urban design degree in 1973 from Washington University in St. Louis, which also recognized him with its Distinguished Alumnus Award. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and the Institute for Urban Design.
Clemson now ranks among the nation’s top 25 public universities in the US News guide to “America’s Best Colleges” and has been recognized for value, affordability and return on investment by Kiplinger’s, Smart Money and Bloomberg Businessweek magazines.
During Barker’s presidency, Clemson has added more than 48,000 alumni, set records for student SAT scores, retention and graduation rates, launched the Academic Success Center and raised more than $1 billion in private funding since 1999. Research expenditures surpassed the $100 million a year mark, and more than 1,400,000 square feet of space has been constructed or renovated, including projects on and off campus.
Clemson also launched major economic development initiatives, including the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville, the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston and the Advanced Materials Center in Anderson County.
Barker also led Clemson through a period of deep state funding cuts, reducing administrative and staff positions by nearly 12 percent without layoffs. According to metrics established by Bain & Co. Financial Services, Clemson is financially healthier today than before the recession.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve my alma mater as president for nearly 14 years. I look forward to becoming one of Clemson’s most loyal and active volunteers,” Barker said.
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