Stetson University President Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., Announces Retirement Plans

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Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., today announced her decision to retire as president of Stetson University in June 2020 after 11 years in the top leadership role. Libby became Stetson’s ninth president in July 2009 and its first female president since the university was founded in 1883.

Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D.

“It has been a privilege to be president of an institution as fine as Stetson University,” Libby said in announcing her decision to the Board of Trustees and the university community. “I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I thank the Board for allowing me the opportunity to contribute to Stetson’s upward trajectory through my presidency. My husband, Richard, and I are looking forward to continuing our lives in DeLand and our support of Stetson.”

During her tenure, Libby has led Stetson through significant growth and is currently overseeing its second five-year strategic plan designed to establish Stetson as a university of choice for innovative approaches to tackling complex challenges.

“We have moved Stetson forward on all fronts,” Libby said, “and I congratulate everyone – from our students, faculty and staff to our alumni, friends and the community we serve – on our successes in enhancing the university’s reputation, strengthening our academic rigor and the vibrancy of our campus life, and updating our facilities while maintaining the historic and inviting feel of our beautiful campuses.”

Recruiting the Best Students for Stetson

Since Libby’s arrival in 2009, undergraduate enrollment has risen nearly 50 percent to an all-time high of 3,150 students in Fall 2018. Law school admissions, credentials and rankings also have risen as the university has weathered the national decline in law school applicants; Stetson Law consistently ranks first in the country for trial advocacy and in the top three for legal writing. Total student enrollment across Stetson’s four campuses reached 4,340 in Fall 2018.

Growing Academic Programs and Partnerships

Wendy and her husband Richard M. Libby, Ph.D.
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Several new academic programs have been introduced at Stetson since 2009. Stetson’s School of Business Administration inaugurated the Centurion Sales Program, increased its focus on experiential learning, launched the annual Templeton Business Ethics Case Competition and greatly expanded the Prince Entrepreneurship Program. Its School of Music continues to be devoted to undergraduate education, and its award-winning duPont-Ball Library developed an Innovation Lab where students use 3D equipment, virtual reality and more to bring projects to life.

Stetson’s largest college, the College of Arts and Sciences – in addition to being charged with leading our Health and Science Initiative – added an interdisciplinary major in public health and a low-residency Master of Fine Arts of the Americas in creative writing, created a robust and focused college-wide program of undergraduate research, and redesigned the psychology major with a strong basis in research and statistical analysis. There also has been considerable growth in the college’s environmental science and studies program, including the establishment of the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, which focuses on research, policy and public education toward the development of sustainable environmental solutions.

At Stetson’s College of Law, the Advocacy Center and Veterans Law Institute were created during Libby’s tenure, and this fall, the college launched three new Master of Jurisprudence programs for non-lawyers.

University-wide, Stetson has focused on helping students secure internships, study abroad and gain experience in their fields of study to enhance their competitive advantage in the job market. Approximately 90 percent of Stetson students are employed or in graduate school six months after graduation.

Stetson President Wendy B. Libby and Dr. David Greenlaw, President of Adventist University of Health Sciences
Stetson President Wendy B. Libby and Dr. David Greenlaw, President of Adventist University of Health Sciences, sign an agreement in November 2016 to collaborate on the training of students in the health sciences.

Since 2009, several partnerships and articulation agreements have been established with other schools including AdventHealth University, Chatham University (Pennsylvania), Daytona State College’s Quanta-Honors College, Seminole State College, University of South Florida, University of West Florida and Valencia State College. Stetson also added Air Force ROTC this year to its current Army ROTC cohort; since 2009, the Army cohort has grown from 15 to more than 100 cadets, and the Air Force cohort is expected to be just as robust.

Strengthening Stetson’s Resources

The university’s endowment has more than doubled in the past decade, to $246 million. Stetson’s four campuses have seen a significant reduction in deferred maintenance; the university now budgets two percent of the value of real assets for repair and renovation – a budget that is currently more than $7 million per year.

Since 2009, the total amount dedicated to faculty salaries has increased 70 percent, with over 50 new faculty positions added in the past eight years to keep pace with student enrollment growth. Average full-time faculty salaries have increased by approximately 26 percent in the past decade.

The university also is nearing completion of its comprehensive campaign, Beyond Success – Significance, having raised more than $210 million to date toward a $200 million overall goal. Over the course of the campaign, more than 5,200 new donors contributed in excess of $17.7 million, ensuring a well-stocked pipeline for future philanthropy. A celebration to mark the campaign’s successful end is planned for November 2019 during Homecoming.

As the university’s chief fundraiser, Libby helped establish the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence, the Hollis Family Student Success Center, the Marshall and Vera Lea Rinker Welcome Center, the Athletic Training Center, the David and Leighan Rinker Center for International Learning and the recently dedicated Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center.

Funds also were raised toward the renovation of the Carlton Union Building (CUB), which saw its footprint expand by nearly 50 percent. The CUB project was completed in January 2019.

In addition, plans are underway through a Health and Science Initiative to construct a new Health and Science building following receipt of an $18 million campaign gift in April 2018 from longtime benefactors and Volusia County residents Hyatt and Cici Brown. It is the largest single gift in Stetson’s history. 

Group shot of the five of them.
From left to right, Stetson Provost Noel Painter, President Wendy B. Libby, Trustees Cici and Hyatt Brown, and Board Chair Joe Cooper celebrated the announcement of the Browns’ $18 million gift in April 2018.

Enhancing Campus Life

In 2012, as part of its Strategic Plan, Stetson updated its values statement. The university promotes three core values – personal growth, intellectual development and global citizenship – with personal and social responsibility at its center.  With approximately 35 percent of its student body diverse, the university has focused on equity and social justice. In addition, first-generation college students make up approximately one-quarter of Stetson’s undergraduate population, and a significant number of students receive Pell Grants.

In recent years, Stetson has reinvigorated its Hillel program, which creates a home for Jewish students and enriches student life offerings. The university recently received a $2 million gift toward the renovation and naming of the Jeffrey and Diane Ginsburg Hillel House on campus. New fraternity and sorority chapters have been established, including the recent additions of Phi Beta Sigma and Sigma Gamma Rho, two of the “Divine Nine” historically Black Greek Letter Organizations.

Stetson also has increased its commitment to environmental sustainability over the past decade. Its conservation program has reduced water and energy consumption by 18 percent — despite the growth on campus — and inspired a student-supported solar array, which has just started producing electricity, on the roof of the CUB.

Stetson President Wendy Libby speaks at opening ceremony for Welcome Center
President Wendy B. Libby addresses the crowd at the grand opening of the Rinker Welcome Center in September 2016.

The Rinker Welcome Center was awarded Green Globe Certification and was named Outstanding Sustainability Project in the state by the Florida Planning and Zoning Association in 2017. The Sandra Stetson Aquatic Center is under review for certification through the Green Globe program. A Volusia County ECHO grant, which helped develop a native Florida botanical garden and a public, non-motorized boat launch ramp at the Aquatic Center site on Lake Beresford, also is supporting enhanced sustainability and water reuse at the building.

Expanding Athletic Opportunities

Libby ushered in the return of Hatter Football in 2013 after a 57-year hiatus and introduced women’s lacrosse and beach volleyball to Stetson’s roster of NCAA Division I sports. For the first time, Hatter Baseball earned a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals in 2018 and six players were drafted by Major League Baseball that summer. Club sports were added (totaling 17 to date) and today more than 1,300 undergraduates participate in club sports and intramurals combined. In addition, a golf practice facility is currently being developed with donor support.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to extend my sincere appreciation to Dr. Libby,” says alumnus Joe Cooper, B.B.A. ’79, M.B.A. ’82, chair of the Stetson University Board of Trustees. “Dr. Libby has demonstrated unparalleled vision and commitment in establishing Stetson as not only a thriving university known for its academic rigor and excellence but also an institution with a solid financial foundation. Her creative and engaged leadership coupled with her financial savvy have led to stellar fundraising outcomes and unprecedented growth over the past decade that will ensure a vibrant future for Stetson University. We are grateful to Dr. Libby and her husband, Richard, for their dedication and service.”

The early announcement allows the Board of Trustees and the university time to conduct a search for Stetson’s next president during the 2019-20 academic year and have a successor in place as Libby departs. Cooper will make more details available regarding a search committee in the coming weeks. 

“It has been an absolute pleasure to have had Dr. Libby at the helm of Stetson University.  I count her as a dear friend,” says alumnus Nestor de Armas, B.B.A. ‘73, who was chair of the Board of Trustees when Libby was recruited as president in 2009. “Wendy’s insight, her genuine care and concern for others, and her ability to expertly move forward the priorities of a complex organization has left a lasting legacy that will benefit Stetson for decades to come. Wendy’s respect for the history of our 136-year institution, her integrity and commitment to Stetson’s values and her vision for what Stetson could become have reinforced Stetson’s vision of being a deeply Christian, rather than a narrowly sectarian, institution.”

Wendy B. Libby, Ph.D., Biography
Libby is active in Central Florida life and, in 2010, was appointed to the Mainstreet Community Bank Board of Directors. In 2011 and 2013, she was named to The Volusia/Flagler Business Report’s list of “Influential Women in Business.” In 2014, she received a Women Who Mean Business Award from the Orlando Business Journal and was also named one of the “Top 55 Most Influential” in Volusia and Flagler counties by MyCoast Magazine.

Wendy B. Libby starts her new job as Stetson University president on July 13, 2009.

In addition, she is a member of the Council of Presidents, as well as of the Consulting Editors for Trusteeship Magazine, of the Association of Governing Boards (AGB). Libby is on the board of directors of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) and is a former board member of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Central Florida Partnership. Since 2017, she has been a Presidential Sponsor of the American Council on Education Florida Women’s Network, and since 2018, she has been a member of the NCAA Division I Presidential Forum.

Prior to Stetson, Libby served as president of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, the nation’s second-oldest women’s institution, from 2003 to 2009. She served as vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, from 1995 to 2003. Her administrative and teaching experience in higher education began in 1980 at institutions including Westbrook College (now part of the University of New England), the University of Hartford, the University of Connecticut Health Center, The Ohio State University and Cornell University.

In 2016, she was placed on the “Wall of Distinction” at James Madison High School in Brooklyn, with the likes of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, singer/songwriter Carole King. Libby received the 2009 Outstanding Higher Education Professional Alumni Award at the University of Connecticut.

Prior to this, she led a delegation of six college presidents to Ewha University in Seoul, South Korea, to participate in the presidents’ forum on strategic planning with a global focus. She also received the 2007 Athena Award from the Columbia (Missouri) Chamber of Commerce Women’s Network for her support of women in realizing their full leadership potential and for contributing to the quality of life in the community.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Libby earned her doctorate in educational administration from the University of Connecticut in 1994. Her undergraduate degree, in biology with a concentration in genetics, is from Cornell University, and she earned an M.B.A. with a concentration in finance from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Her husband, Dr. Richard M. Libby, a former college president, is a great supporter of Stetson. In March 2010, he founded and was named university mentor and head coach of Stetson’s Skeet and Trap Club. He has raised more than $85,000 in endowment for the club from Stetson alumni and friends. The Libbys have two sons, Glenn and wife Ginger, and Gregg and wife Lori, four grandchildren, a great-granddaughter, two great-grandsons and two Labrador retrievers.

A line of dignitaries watch as Wendy Libby cuts a big green ribbon
President Wendy B. Libby cuts the ribbon at the Dedication Ceremony for the renovated Carlton Union Building on Jan. 18, 2019.