John W. Bardo, who guided Western Carolina University through a period of unprecedented growth in student enrollment, campus construction and academic stature during 15 years as the institution’s 10th chief executive officer, announced Monday, Oct. 11, he will leave his position as chancellor next summer.
Bardo, chancellor at WCU since 1995, informed the campus community of his decision to retire from the post effective July 1, 2011, in a series of conversations with key administrators and a message to faculty and staff.
Upon his retirement as chancellor, he will begin a year of research leave before taking a new role at WCU as a faculty member.
Bardo, 61, said he decided now is the time to step down as chancellor so the university can be better positioned for the next leap forward in its development.
“After a great deal of soul-searching, I decided that it would be in the best interests of the university if I chose this time to announce my intent to retire from the chancellorship. This will allow a new chancellor the ability to rapidly assemble a team to lead the institution to the next level of quality,” he said. “It is bittersweet to say that I know that this university’s best days are ahead.”
UNC President Erskine Bowles, who announced his own retirement plans earlier this year, commended Bardo for his years of exemplary service to the university.
“John Bardo has been a truly phenomenal leader for Western Carolina University, the surrounding region and the entire state. Over the past 15 years, he has dramatically changed WCU for the better, significantly growing enrollment and academic offerings while also raising the academic quality of the student body,” Bowles said.
“Throughout his long tenure, he also has worked on multiple fronts to establish WCU as a catalyst for sustainable economic development in that region of the state. In the process, the campus has attracted national recognition for its ongoing efforts to incorporate civic engagement and community outreach into the undergraduate experience,” he said. “As UNC’s most senior chancellor, Chancellor Bardo has also been a wonderful mentor to me. In countless ways, he will leave WCU stronger than he found it, and that’s quite a legacy in and of itself.”
In addition to being the senior chancellor in the UNC system, Bardo is WCU’s longest-serving chancellor since 1972, when the institution joined the UNC system. The UNC Board of Governors unanimously confirmed Bardo as WCU chancellor March 17, 1995.
Students and staff at Western were sad to hear of Bardo’s departure.
“No!,” said senior Kellie Hayes. “He seems like a nice guy who takes an interest in his students. He invites the student leaders to his house for their ideas and thoughts on some stuff at school.”
Dr. Jim Manning, a professor in the communication department, said “Dr. Bardo has brought an incredible amount of change. We came about the same time… He really has upped the ante around here.”
Under Bardo’s leadership, Western Carolina has seen student enrollment grow from 6,500 to more than 9,400 today. To accommodate rising enrollment, the university has constructed or made major additions to 14 buildings, including five new residence halls, a dining hall, a campus recreation center, the Fine and Performing Arts Center and a high-tech Center for Applied Technology. The university expanded its student union facility, launched women’s soccer and softball programs, and renovated every athletics facility on campus, including the addition of west-side stands to WCU’s formerly notorious one-sided football stadium.
With the 2005 acquisition of 344 acres of property across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus as part of the Millennial Initiative, the university doubled the size of its campus. A new Health and Human Sciences Building is now under construction as the first facility of the initiative, which involves creation of neighborhoods anchored by an academic building and surrounded by related private industry and government partners.
Also during Bardo’s tenure, the university gained national recognition for being among the first institutions in the nation to require incoming students to report to campus with their own computers and for adopting innovative tenure and promotion policies that reward faculty member for their scholarly activities that go beyond traditional teaching, research and service. Western Carolina’s Quality Enhancement Plan, which emphasizes strong links between students’ academic and extracurricular activities, has been called a national model by higher education associations.
A native of Cincinnati, Bardo holds a doctorate in sociology from the Ohio State University, a master of arts degree in sociology from Ohio University, and a bachelor of arts degree in economics from the University of Cincinnati. He has written two books and articles for more than 70 professional publications on topics including community development, technology in education, social and psychological adjustment to migration, and higher education policy. He speaks widely on issues of technology in education and the role of higher education in economic and community development.