Portland State University’s president announces retirement

Another Oregon public university will start searching for a new president.

Portland State University President Stephen Percy announced Friday his retirement. Percy will step down at the end of the next academic year, in the summer of 2023.

Percy will retire at the end of the upcoming academic year, in the summer of 2023.

ED KEENE 2018 / OPB

Percy has been at PSU since 2014, first working as a political science professor and eventually becoming the university’s president in 2020. He took over in an interim capacity in 2019, following the resignation of former PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi.

“I will reach three scores and ten years next year and, after multiple decades in higher education, it was always my intention to embrace a new stage in my life,” Percy wrote in a message to the PSU campus community Friday morning. “I intend to return to the faculty for a brief time to do some writing on my leadership experiences and then fully retire.”

The next leader at Portland State will face similar challenges happening widely in higher education across Oregon, and the nation, due to the effects of the pandemic.

PSU saw nearly an 11% decrease in the number of enrolled students from fall 2019 to last fall, according to data from the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. That’s on top of a decrease in enrollment that preceded the pandemic at Oregon’s largest urban university.

Last month, PSU announced a moderate increase in tuition as a way to balance its budget in the face of falling enrollment. University leaders are trying to keep PSU costs affordable for its students—many of whom come from low-income and nontraditional student backgrounds.

“Serving as President of Portland State is the highlight of my academic career,” Percy wrote Friday. “I very much appreciate the support of the Board of Trustees and our entire campus community. We are working together to strengthen Portland State during a deeply challenging period. It is a privilege to work alongside so many talented colleagues making such an extraordinary impact.”

Before working at PSU, Percy spent about four decades working in higher education at institutions including the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Changes in higher education leadership are happening across the state. PSU’s search for a new president will start just as Oregon State University is entering the final stages of its presidential search. Western Oregon University appointed a new president last month, as did University of Portland and Portland Community College.

According to Portland State, PSU’s Board of Trustees will meet Monday to lay out a process for hiring the university’s next president.

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