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Stanislaus State president announces retirement
Stanislaus State President Dr. Joseph F. Sheley (seen here delivering the annual President's Address in August) announced on Friday he will be retiring in July. - photo by Journal file photo

After nearly half a decade working in academia, California State University, Stanislaus President Joseph F. Sheley decided on Friday that it was time for him to finally retire.

“This was a decision that wasn’t truly hard to make. It’s sad, but it’s also an optimistic and positive one,” said Sheley. “We’ve got a lot of momentum here in terms of what we’ve been doing. Whoever comes along will be in good hands because this is a beautiful and strong campus.”

Sheley was appointed by the CSU Board of Trustees as the campus’ interim president in June 2012 before assuming his position as president in May of the following year.

During his tenure, Sheley has worked to build strong ties between Stanislaus State and the community. The university has also gained national recognition as one of America’s best universities in advancing its graduates’ economic mobility and life outcomes.

Money Magazine ranked Stanislaus State as the number one public university in the nation for helping students exceed expectations in July, and a study commissioned by the National Public Radio in October placed the university as fifth in nation in providing upward mobility. In this ranking, Stanislaus State was only preceded by Harvard, MIT, Stanford and University of California, Irvine.

“The CSU is indebted to Joe Sheley for his two decades of leadership, the last four as president of CSU Stanislaus,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “President Sheley elevated the profile of the university and established CSU Stanislaus as an integral force with the region, stimulating economic development and bolstering college attendance and completion rates.

“I commend him for his personal efforts to advance the educational attainment levels of students, many of whom are the first in their families to graduate from high school and attend a four-year university. The partnerships he has forged and fostered with the community and local school districts will provide the foundation for many generations of students to enjoy increased academic and personal success. I also personally thank Joe for his insight and invaluable contributions to the CSU, as we have worked together to expand opportunities for underserved students and increase degree completion rates.”

Although Sheley said that he will be retiring in July, he has no plans to slow down before then.

 “I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, and I’m especially proud of our students’ success,” said Sheley. “However, it’s important to stay focused, because this region desperately needs many more successful graduates if it’s going to advance economically.”

Sheley said that he plans to continue advocating for investment in higher education and making the case that the state’s long-term well-being lies in a better-educated workforce in the Central Valley.  

“One of the strengths of our campus right now is that it is not viewed simply as a university that happens to be in a region,” said Sheley. “We are regional development partners.”

One way that he has already achieved this is through the Stanislaus Education Partnership, which he played a role in launching last spring with the Stanislaus County Office of Education and Modesto Junior College. By teaming up, this coalition aims to increase college enrollment and college graduation rates throughout the region.

“We have so many young people who want to attend college, but they’re not sure how to navigate the process. Despite their best intentions, many do not achieve their dream, or know they can dream,” said Sheley.

“The partnership’s mission is to help ensure that students and their families know what it takes in junior high and high school to prepare for the next step, and once they get to college—here, at MJC or elsewhere—they have the knowledge, confidence and staying power to succeed in college,” continued Sheley.

The Stanislaus Education Partnership is not the only way that Sheley has underlined the message that more graduates means a brighter economic future for the individual and the region. He has also conveyed this idea in meetings with legislators in Sacramento, business leaders, alumni, fellow educators and future graduates.

Sheley said that he will also focus on continued collaboration with campus constituencies on a host of issues, including budget planning, health and safety, Title IX and fundraising.

“Collaboration does not always mean unanimity, but one of the things I’ve valued throughout my career in higher education is the collegiality among those who are passionate about the university,” said Sheley.

Aside from all of the work he has set out for himself prior to his retirement, Sheley said that he also hopes to make time to enjoy life on campus with his wife and faculty member, Bernadette Halbrook.

“Warrior Pride is not just a phase,” said Sheley. “You feel it at games, cultural and academic events, and in everyday conversation in the Quad or Main Dining. That feeling is important to us, and we’ll miss it. We want to experience it until the day we leave.”

Sheley will retire on July 1, 2016. The CSU Board of Trustees will soon begin a national search to select a new campus president.