Fresno State President Dr. John Welty announced his retirement today before an assembly of university faculty and staff. His retirement will take effect in summer of 2013, after the conclusion of the current academic year. He will turn 68 later this month.
Welty began his term as university president in 1991, and oversaw a period marked by both growth and controversy. Welty led the effort to build the Save Mart Center, the new addition to the Henry Madden Library and several other major campus buildings.
During his tenure Fresno State launched its first doctoral degree program in education, the Smittcamp Family Honors College, and worked to align the university's programs with the social and economic needs of the San Joaquin Valley. Welty's tenure also included several NCAA investigations and gender discrimination lawsuits, which cost the university millions and damaged its reputation both locally and nationally.
Welty is the longest serving president in the school's history. He told the audience at the university's annual fall assembly that following his retirement, he plans to serve as a "trustee professor" at a CSU campus. Welty also used his retirement speech to push for state funding for higher education. He told the audience that if voters reject Proposition 30, the tax measure backed by Governor Jerry Brown, Fresno State would see its budget cut by an additional $13.2 million.
Please be assured that I will devote this year to doing everything possible to achieve a positive outcome for higher education in the November election. Once the decision is made, I will work with our campus leadership to bring as much stability as possible to our financial situation. This effort will allow new campus leadership to focus on continuing to grow and building our great University.
During his tenure at Fresno State, the school went through a series of painful CSU budget cuts, first in the early 1990's and then again in the last five years. As state support of the CSU system became increasingly unreliable, Welty led efforts to generate more private support for academic programs. The university's major fundraising campaign has so far raised $192 million from donors. Fresno State's business, education and engineering and agriculture programs all now bear the names of major benefactors.
Controversies surrounded Welty for much of his presidency, many of them involving the university's athletic department. Welty's decision to hire men's basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian resulted in winning seasons and sellout crowds at Selland Arena. But eventually a federal investigation into allegations of point shaving, and a major exposé on the CBS television program 60 Minutes cast a cloud over the team's on-court achievements. The NCAA later placed the university on probation twice for violations committed by the men's basketball team, both under Tarkanian, and his successor Ray Lopes.
In 1993, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights found the university out of compliance with Title IX, the nation's gender equity in education law. It did not achieve compliance with the law until 2001. Later, a series of gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits drew national attention and embarrassment to the university.
In 2007, former volleyball coach Lindy Vivas successfully sued the university for gender discrimination and was awarded $5.85 million. Also in 2007, a jury awarded former women's basketball coach Stacey Johnson-Klein $19.1 million in a gender discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit. After an appeal, the university and Johnson-Klein settled the suit for $9 million. Former athletic department administrator Diane Milutinovich also sued the university over gender equity and discrimination issues and settled out of court for $3.5 million.
Outgoing CSU Chancellor Charles Reed issued a statement praising Welty's leadership.
“John’s commitment to serving students from underrepresented communities has changed many young people’s lives forever. His leadership on key systemwide initiatives including online learning, teacher education and public accountability has been invaluable."
The university did not announce plans on how or when it will begin the process to identify Welty's successor.