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Ithaca College President Tom Rochon Announces Plans to Retire in 2017

Ithaca College president Tom Rochon announced today that, after much reflection over the college’s winter break, he has decided to retire effective July 1, 2017.

“I am proud of the progress and accomplishments achieved by the college over what will be a nine-year tenure as president,” he wrote in a message to the campus community. “I look forward to working with the college community over the next 18 months in a constructive and collaborative way, making progress on issues of diversity and inclusion, shared governance, and decision making.”

In his letter, Rochon expressed confidence that the timing of his retirement would allow the board of trustees to choose a president best suited to address the new opportunities, challenges and transformations the college will face.

“As Tom has pondered the appropriate timing for retirement, he and the executive committee of the board have discussed the importance of succession planning to ensure we have an orderly process to select a new president,” wrote board chair Tom Grape ’80 and vice chair David Lissy ’87 in a message to the community. “With Tom’s announcement, it is time to set that process in motion.”

The Ithaca College Board of Trustees will launch a national search for the college’s ninth president, expected to begin by the summer of 2016 with more details forthcoming. The board will retain the responsibility for choosing the next president, but is committed to an inclusive search process that will solicit input from faculty, students, staff and alumni. Throughout this process, the college will collaborate closely to better define itself as a community and institution in order to attract a world-class leader for Ithaca College.

Grape and Lissy are hopeful that the coming months will be a time for the IC community to come together and address the serious concerns raised last semester around issues of racial bias, governance and campus culture. Under the action plan currently being led by IC’s interim chief diversity officer, Dr. Roger Richardson, the college has redoubled its commitment to diversity and inclusion initiatives, focused on ensuring the Ithaca College community is one built on the highest ideals of justice and respect.

Rochon indicated that during his remaining months in office he will work toward reestablishing a stronger and more unified sense of the educational vision and cultural values that make Ithaca College so distinctively excellent.

In their message, Grape and Lissy thanked Rochon for driving transformational change and positioning the institution as a national leader in private higher education. Accomplishments they underscored include:

  • Working with faculty and administrators to develop and implement the IC 20/20 strategic plan, a comprehensive initiative that includes the establishment of the innovative Integrative Core Curriculum, Center for Faculty Excellence, Academic Advising Center, IC Mentoring Network and New York City study program;
  • Driving to improve the quality of an IC education while reducing expenses, which has resulted in the lowest annual tuition increases in the college’s history; and
  • Leading the college through a challenging economic climate to emerge stronger, through alumni engagement and by strengthening the endowment to help provide for student scholarships and to secure the college’s financial future.

Additionally, in the eight years under Rochon’s leadership, the percentage of African, Latino(a), Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Ithaca College has nearly doubled to 20 percent, meeting the college’s benchmark five years ahead of its set goal. 

In its first-ever ranking of colleges and universities last fall, The Economist listed Ithaca College at #47 in the country for providing value to its graduates. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked Ithaca in the top 10 among colleges of its kind in the North, and named it one of the “best values” for providing a quality education at an affordable cost. IC has also been listed by Princeton Review as one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges, by Campus Pride as one of the “Top 25 LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges & Universities” and by the health and wellness website Greatist.com as one of the “25 Healthiest Colleges in the U.S.”

In his message to the community, Rochon explained that he came to his retirement decision following much reflection over the holiday break. He urged the community to join together to help prepare the college to attract a highly qualified leader to succeed him.

“Ithaca College is a very special educational environment, centered on student learning and development across liberal arts and professional fields and committed to the highest ideals of creating an inclusive community of justice and respect,” wrote Rochon. “It has been a privilege to lead the college through a time of challenge and change.”

Rochon, whose scholarly research focuses on contemporary European politics and social movements in Europe and the United States, became the eighth president of Ithaca College on July 1, 2008.

He had previously served as executive vice president and chief academic officer at the University of St. Thomas (2003–8), executive director of the Graduate Records Examination Program at the Educational Testing Service (2000–3) and at Claremont Graduate University as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs (1997–8) and dean of the School of Politics and Economics (1996–2000). His teaching experience includes seven years as an assistant professor in the Department of Politics at Princeton University.

Rochon’s 1998 book, “Culture Moves: Ideas, Activism and Changing Values,” received a Distinguished Scholarship Prize from the American Sociological Association and was named an Outstanding Academic Book of 1998 by Choice magazine.

He received a B.A. with high distinction in 1973, followed by an M.A. in 1976 and a Ph.D. in 1980—all in political science from the University of Michigan.

In addition to serving as chairman of the board of directors of Tompkins Financial Corporation and on the executive committee of New York Campus Compact, Rochon has been on the boards of the Association of New American Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges and Universities. He is the advisor to the Ithaca College chapter of Habitat for Humanity.