A New Chapter

The President’s Column

Jo Allen smiling.At the State of the College address in August, I announced my intention to retire at the end of the academic year or when the Board of Trustees identifies and welcomes the ninth president of the College.

In this last year, I hope to close out our plans for establishing a significant new academic program and three capital projects: the second phase of renovation/addition to create the Meredith Performing Arts Center, the completion of the Softball/Tennis/Golf sports complex, and the construction of a home for a new academic program. These additions to our community will enhance our attractiveness for future generations of high-achieving students across the spectrum of arts, science, athletics, and academics.

Many have asked what led to my retirement decision and what’s next. While I have hoped that retirement was in my future (the other options not being nearly as appealing!), I must admit that I, too, wondered what the ultimate sign would be. Poor health? Mercifully, no. Crisis at the college? Thankfully, no. Desire to pursue a different career somewhere else? Not in the least. Pandemic over? To a large degree, yes … but … Some other factor? Hmmm.

While I certainly look forward to being closer to my family in eastern North Carolina, I mostly see an opportunity to rest and reflect on how to answer the “what’s next?” part of the equation. I have been working on a book about presidential onboarding for four years. Stubbornly, the book refuses to finish itself. (Looks like that will be up to me.)

I’ve also noted the dozens of issues facing higher education’s leaders, faculty, staff, students, and trustees that I may want to address from a leadership perspective, even without the privilege or peril of speaking for Meredith.

Ultimately, I believe our students and graduates have a unique role in society because of the careers, families, and communities they build that benefit tremendously from top-quality, highly educated teachers, lawyers, healthcare providers, social workers, scientists, artists, researchers, scholars, business leaders, and more. As preparation for whatever roles they assume, our students deserve an education that is equally unique in helping build their strengths to achieve their goals and ultimately enhance the quality of life for them and for us all.

As I end my tenure, it has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve my alma mater – the institution that gave so many of us our biggest start in life toward independence, resilience, and direction. I thank every single one of you who has been a part of this journey with the College and with me. 

In retirement I look forward to filling my days in whatever ways bring meaning, but most assuredly as an always grateful, always proud, always supportive alumna of Meredith College.

President Jo Allen, ’80