Cal State San Bernardino President Albert Karnig officially kicked off the start of his 15th year as president of the university with his annual convocation address Monday to an audience of nearly 1,000, and in the process delivered a message that greatly surprised the faculty and staff in attendance.
Karnig, 69, announced he will retire at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, which begins with the start of fall classes on Thursday, Sept. 22. The president said that he agreed with California State University Chancellor Charles Reed’s request that he remain at the helm until after a replacement is named and is on board. The chancellor’s office will begin the national search for a new president in January.
“While I still enjoy what I do, it’s time to pass the torch to a new steward,” Karnig said, noting that the support given to him and his wife Marilyn since they arrived in 1997 made it clear that Cal State San Bernardino would be their home for “as long as you wanted us to stay. “I fell in love with CSUSB’s mission, the region's incredibly warm reception for Marilyn and me, the staggering diversity and needs of the student body, the vital role of this campus in the communities we serve, and you all, as well,” he told the surprised convocation day audience, which saluted the president with an extended standing ovation following his address.
Karnig took over as Cal State San Bernardino president in August 1997, becoming only the third person to hold the office since the university opened in 1965, following John M. Pfau and Anthony H. Evans.
Since he was named president, CSUSB has seen records in enrollment, diversity of faculty and students, grant and contract funding, overhead funds, fundraising and international program development.
However, Karnig rates among his proudest achievements the university’s key role in successfully educating students in a two-county region that has the lowest percentage of college graduates of any U.S. metropolitan area with a population of more than one million residents.
“You open the doors of opportunity to those underserved in the past – with an astonishing 70 percent of our graduates the first in their families to finish college, and that after their education at CSUSB in which the value added is at the 96th percentile,” he told the audience. “Let me assure you that those two successes trump most anything else that can be placed on the higher education agenda.”
Karnig pointed to recent results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment – employed by hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation to test freshmen students and seniors – to serve as an evaluation of value added by a college education. The 2010-2011 data indicates that students entered CSUSB with an assessment score in the 31st percentile, which reflects the university’s mission of providing broad access to many students. Senior year CSUSB student scores were 25 percent higher, at the 56th percentile, which placed Cal State San Bernardino in the top 4 percent nationally for the degree of learning students acquired while in college, scoring at the 96th percentile.
CSUSB has significantly improved its student persistence rates, ranking among the leaders for first-to-second year retention among all California State University campuses, and it is among the leading CSU schools in retaining African American and Latino students.
“Our 86 percent first-to-second year retention rate is far higher than predicted on the basis of 70 percent of CSUSB students requiring remediation in math, English or both, though it’s pleasing that 90 percent of those students are remediated within one year of entering the university,” Karnig said.
Cal State San Bernardino has continued to improve its national rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Forbes and the Princeton Review. For the fifth straight year, the university was named to the President’s Community Service Honor Roll, and it was included on the 2011 lists of Military Friendly Schools and Top 200 Colleges for Native Americans. And CSUSB was one of only four U.S. institutions and 18 in the world designated as Most Innovative Business Colleges by European CEO Magazine.
He created the President's Academic Excellence Scholarships, and since its beginning in 2002, more than 300 of the top 1 percent of San Bernardino County high school students have accepted the scholarship to attend CSUSB.
He received a bachelor's degree from Augustana College, where he became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, an N.D.E.A. Fellow and a Kendric Babcock Fellow at the University of Illinois, where he was awarded a master's and Ph.D. degree in political science. He and Marilyn have three grown sons. The Karnigs live in San Bernardino.
“As I start this last year, let me say as I did at my first convocation. I deeply appreciate your confidence and support,” Karnig said in closing.
“I’m proud to serve as your colleague.”
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