MONMOUTH — Mark Weiss failed at retirement the first time, but is hopeful that this time around, he’s ready.
“To quote a Bob Dylan song, ‘We were so much older then; I’m younger than that now,’” he said. “I think I’m ready. Our kids are grown, and I’m ready to enjoy some of the fruits of retirement.”
Weiss will retire at the end of June as Western Oregon University’s president. July 1, Rex Fuller will take over the helm with a new board of trustees as WOU moves to self-governance and the Oregon University System dissolves.
“I feel happy that I leave Western Oregon University in what I consider an excellent situation with a brand new board of directors that’s focused on Western and her students, all aligned with the mission of Western and who we serve in terms of Oregonians,” he said. “I’m delighted at that.”
Weiss doesn’t leave without mixed emotions.
“I was going to retire a year or so ago,” he said. “This job has been fantastic — it hasn’t been a job, it’s been a fantastic experience for me both in meeting faculty and staff, and particularly in seeing how our students develop over their time here at Western.”
Although he and his wife, Meg, have no plans to move from Independence, they do have some vacations planned, including an annual trip to the Rogue River on Gold Beach.
“We go there routinely and I fish in the bay or in the ocean, pretty much as much as I can,” Weiss, an avid fisherman, said. “I really enjoy the outdoors and the water.”
Weiss has worked at Western for 10 years, having started as the vice president of finance and administration.
“I always call it the road least followed to be a university president,” Weiss said. “Most (presidents) come from academia. I did not. I spent my career in the business world working for a multinational electronics firm in the energy business.”
He was appointed interim president of Western when John Minahan retired in 2011, and asked to stay on as the president full time in 2012.
During his tenure, he’s seen four new buildings erected or started: the Health and Wellness Center, Ackerman Hall, DeVolder Family Science Center and the Richard Woodcock College of Education building, which broke ground last June.
More than the new infrastructure, Weiss is proud of the student success and the resources Western has been able to provide for those students in spite of dwindling state financial support.
“We’ve been able to increase the amount of student financial aid, …increase our academic advising and our tutoring centers, … health services that are also important these days, particularly counseling services,” Weiss said. “It’s the investment in the university at a time when many other universities have had to disinvest in infrastructure, necessary support for students.”
State institutions have been hit particularly hard because state appropriations have declined 25 to 30 percent over the last eight years, Weiss said, while student enrollment in universities like Western has increased 20 to 25 percent in the same time period.
One of the things that kept Weiss on as president an extra year was the instability surrounding Western’s future as the big three Oregon universities withdrew from the OUS.
He spearheaded developing a business plan for WOU that was accepted at the state government level, securing Western’s future as an independent university.
He then aided in the selection of Western’s new board of trustees and supported the process and selection of Fuller, who will come to WOU from Eastern Washington University.
Weiss said he is looking forward to not having a schedule once he is retired.
“On the other hand, you know, having a schedule also has its benefits,” he said. “It makes sure to keep you on track and purposeful each day.”
Staying purposeful likely won’t be an issue for Weiss or his wife, as they are both involved in the community. Meg is on the Oregon Symphony at Salem board of directors, while Mark is on the board for Salem Health, which is the parent organization of Salem Hospital and West Valley Hospital.
Weiss will not be a stranger on campus at Western, either.
“I plan to take advantage of things to learn and the arts,” he said. “It is good to have close by.”