Former IPFW Chancellor Michael Wartell said it's hard to describe how he's feeling, leaving the position he's held for 18 years.
“I certainly don't have any regrets,” he said of his time as chancellor. “We've accomplished a lot. I probably haven't gotten everything done that I wanted to…I love doing what I'm doing, and it's been an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Wartell's contract ended June 30. He turned 65 this year, the mandatory retirement age for Purdue University executives. The Purdue board voted down a resolution by the IPFW Senate to allow Wartell to stay for the university's 50th anniversary in 2014.
Walt Branson, vice chancellor for financial affairs, will serve as the interim chancellor until Vicky L. Carwein takes over Sept. 1.
Wartell said he's not sure what he'll do next.
“I've got to take a little time to breathe and look around, I think. I'm a tenured professor (at IPFW), so I guess I have that luxury,” he said.
Mayor Tom Henry, who has formed a personal relationship with Wartell and his wife Ruth during Wartell's time at IPFW, hopes Wartell chooses to stay in the area.
“It would be a real loss to the community if he leaves,” Henry said. “He's young enough that he could make another major contribution to an academic or other institution.”
And already Wartell has a running list of major contributions.
He cited the expansion of the physical campus, move to Division I athletics, student housing, the increased number of endowed chairs, program growth and community collaborations as some of his biggest accomplishments.
“One of the things I'm proudest of is the way people work together here to reach common goals. We've got an absolutely wonderful faculty and staff at this institution,” he said.
Susan Hannah, who worked under Wartell as the vice chancellor of academic affairs for 10 years, said Wartell has a long shopping list of purely academic accomplishments, including establishing Centers of Excellence to recognize and advance faculty achievements; increasing research opportunities for faculty; strengthening student curriculum and graduation requirements; specified expectations for faculty promotion and tenure and helped support faculty through the introduction of technology and professional development.
Hannah said under Wartell's leadership, IPFW became “master's of our own ship,” gaining more decision-making abilities from Purdue University, which manages the business operations of the regional campus.
As a leader, Hannah said Wartell collected ideas and input from others, but ultimately made up his own mind. She said he was also hands-on and accessible.
“He would call late at night or early in the morning. He worked 24-hours a day for IPFW,” she said.
Wartell hopes his caring about IPFW and the people a part of the institution has rubbed off.
“It's important to me to know people and care about what happens to them, and I believe we really care about what happens to the people at IPFW,” he said. “There isn't anybody on this campus that doesn't have an important job.”
And although Wartell had the largest job of all, sometimes it didn't seem that way. He said he couldn't pick a particular aspect of being chancellor that he liked the most because he enjoyed every part of the position.
“It's a really hard question to answer,” he said. “I love the interaction with the people on campus whether its students, faculty or staff. It's as if they're all my family.”
Henry said Wartell's accessibility was part of the reason the two became friends.
“He's a very down-to-earth guy,” Henry said of Wartell. “He was very real.”
Wartell served on a number of advisory boards for Henry. The two also get together with a group of friends to play poker.
“He usually takes our money,” Henry said, chuckling.
With IPFW being such a major player in the community not only as an employer but as an educational institution, Henry said he hopes Wartell's successor, Vicky Carwein who most recently served as chancellor of Washington State Unversity, Tri-Cities campus, will be as innovative as Wartell, if not more.
Wartell hopes that his successors priorities will be similar to his own and admits Carwein may see university needs he hadn't.
“To a certain extent, every institution takes on the character of its leader,” Wartell said. “Guaranteed, whoever comes in is going to be different than I am. You just can't tell in what ways he or she will be different, so I think we'll just have to wait and see.”