From Staff Reports
He wants to spend more time painting.
He wants to spend more time with family.
But all that means John Schwenn will have to spend less time at the Dalton State College campus.
“I will be 65 in August and it is time for the next chapter,” he said. “My work here is done.”
Schwenn, who has served as president of Dalton State since March 2008, said Monday that he will retire on Dec. 31 after “recovering from a recent illness.”
“Judy (his wife) and I love living here and intend to stay in Dalton,” he said. “When I came to Dalton State as president, I planned to stay six to eight years. I will have been here almost seven years when I step down in December.”
Whoever replaces Schwenn will be the fifth president in the college’s history since it was chartered in July 1963. College officials said there is no timeline for the selection of the next president.
The state Board of Regents — a 19-member group appointed by the governor to run public college operations — will oversee the selection process, according to Pam Partain, director of communications for the college. Before the board picked Schwenn in 2007, it created a committee that included local community members to make a recommendation to the board. Board members will have the final vote on Schwenn’s replacement, Partain said.
During his tenure, Schwenn has overseen the expansion of bachelor’s degrees offered at the college from six to 17, led efforts to increase retention and graduation rates, expanded the college’s physical presence into Gilmer County and developed the college’s first residence hall, which opened in 2010, according to a press release from the University System of Georgia.
“Much of the vision I laid out for Dalton State ... has been achieved,” he said. “We have grown into the college people told me they wanted Dalton State to be. ... We’ve expanded our main campus north and south and west, and even east with the addition of our Gilmer County center. We’ve added intercollegiate athletics and fine arts and theater.”
Schwenn said the men’s basketball program, which was started up again last year after a long hiatus, and theater productions have better “connected” the college with the outside community. He added that working with the Archway Partnership has “integrated us more fully” with the local economy and growing workforce needs. Archway is a University of Georgia program that brought university resources to Dalton several years ago to help with economic and community development.
“I am proud to be leaving Dalton State in a strong position,” Schwenn said.
He added that he is proud of growing the campus, including a new science building called the Shelby and Willena Peeples Hall set to open for summer classes, “major renovations” to Westcott Hall and the Bandy Gym, and a slated renovation to a technology building that will house health profession programs. He also oversaw the creation of a bell tower named for former college president Jim Burran and a campus parking deck.
According to the university system, Schwenn came to Dalton when the college was focused on increasing the number of full-time students and the number of students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, and reaching out to the area’s Hispanic population. Half of Dalton’s approximately 5,000 students are seeking bachelor’s degrees, university system officials said, adding that the percentage of Hispanic students enrolled at the college has increased from 10.8 percent in the fall of 2007, prior to his arrival, to 19.3 percent in the fall of last year.
“President Schwenn has provided productive leadership for Dalton State College,” Hank Huckaby, chancellor of the regents, stated in a press release. “He has worked to ensure the college’s critical access mission, while also balancing the region’s workforce needs through the identification and development of targeted bachelor degree programs. His tireless efforts on behalf of the college and its students have served northwest Georgia well and his leadership will be missed upon his retirement.”
Before coming to Dalton, Schwenn was vice president for academic affairs at Emporia State University in Kansas, where he was also interim president. The state Board of Regents chose him from a list of 88 candidates.
Schwenn grew up in La Crosse, Wis., and he has said he and his wife of 36 years, Judy, first met in the fourth grade. The Schwenns lived in Cleveland, Miss., from 1976 to 1989 when he taught at Delta State University. The couple lived in Kansas for 18 years.