The reaction was all love for Mississippi University for Women President Dr. Claudia Limbert as she announced her retirement at Cochran Hall on the MUW campus.
Limbert has faced sharp criticism during her eight-year tenure at MUW, most notably for the university”s split with its former Alumnae Association.
But Monday”s announcement was greeted with well-wishes and reminiscing from a pro-Limbert crowd.
Limbert”s announcement brought a “sad day,” said Scott Ross, West Point mayor and president of the Institutions of the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.
“Eight years ago, I served on the election commission that hired Dr. Limbert. It was the right choice then and it”s the right choice now,” said Ross.
The College Board charged Limbert with recovery efforts in 2002 after MUW was struck by a tornado, an example of her competence and leadership, he continued.
“Dr. Limbert was right in the middle of everything. She took charge in a calm but resolute manner. Every student was back in class within one week,” Ross recalled.
Phillip Cockrell, former MUW student body president currently employed as director of student life, recalled Limbert”s open-door policy to students.
Dr. Martha Jo Mims, a 32-year education professor at MUW, also praised Limbert”s accessibility.
“Anybody can feel comfortable walking into the president”s office. That”s not true on every campus,” said Mims. “(Limbert”s) so real. You feel so comfortable asking questions without her being defensive.”
Throughout Limbert”s trials with the former Alumnae Association, Mims said she never skipped a beat.
“I know it has been challenging, but it has not impeded the progress she”s been able to make. She”s been successful despite the differences that surfaced,” said Mims.
Among Limbert”s successes, Mims counts separate master plans for academics, enrollment and physical appearance, as well as efforts to reach out to non-traditional students.
Amy Whitten, a member of the MUW board of trustees, compared Limbert”s hiring to divine intervention.
“It was like God had sent us the person we were supposed to have,” said Whitten.
But that won”t earn Limbert any breaks in her last eight months on the job.
“We plan to work her half to death before we let her go,” Whitten joked.
Ed Blakely, of the College Board, and IHL Commissioner Hank Bounds also were on hand to wish Limbert well.
“She and I have been talking about this day for a couple of weeks,” said Bounds. “I”m less than excited about this announcement. Leadership really matters, and this university had very good leadership for eight years.”
Bounds credited Limbert with increasing enrollment and endowments at MUW during her tenure.
A handful of students also were in attendance to show their support for Limbert.
Hunter Harris, a senior political science and English major, acknowledged the weight and stress of Limbert”s ordeal with the former Alumnae Association, but praised her resolve.
“I think that, in the end, she stuck to her vision of what the university is going to be. She”s put us on a course and gotten us ready to lead into the future and she”s content with that. I think it”s more contentment than being weighted down by anything,” said Harris.
“She set up the university to be a wonderful place and to continue to grow,” said Bess Toyama, a junior history, education and political science major. “She”s raised enrollment rates and brought a lot of funds to the school that we didn”t have before.”
Forrest Marcy, a senior history major, expressed his hope for sound financial leadership from the next president.
“(I”m looking for) somebody who”s going to be able to move the school forward in this economic crisis and someone who can keep us going,” said Marcy.
Limbert”s retirement is effective next July, when her contract ends.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.