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Wednesday, September 20, 2023
​UH President Lassner announces plans to retire
By News Release @ 2:40 AM :: 1552 Views :: Higher Education

UH President Lassner announces plans to retire

UH News,  September 19, 2023

University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner plans to retire at the end of 2024, after what will be more than a decade in the position. Lassner notified the Board of Regents and employees by email on September 19, 2023. He has served as the 15th president of the Hawaiʻi’s 10-campus public higher education system since July 2014, after serving as the interim president from July 2013.

“I am incredibly proud of what our team has accomplished over these past 10 years,” Lassner said in his email. “I assumed the presidency in a time of many challenges. Today, your university is academically, financially, culturally and organizationally strong. Of course there are many ways we can improve—I probably know them as well as anyone. I have every confidence that the next leader will be able to hit the ground running to work with our amazing leaders and the Board to take UH to even greater heights with our new vision, mission and strategic plan as the foundation.”

Lassner said that he is making the announcement now so the planning process for the search for the next president can begin right away.

“I am committed to be flexible in supporting whatever search timeline and process the BOR adopts and to participate with enthusiasm in a transition that will be positive for UH and the next president,” said Lassner. “In the meantime, anyone who expects me to act like a ‘lame duck’ will be sorely disappointed. I plan to actively advance all aspects of our mission until my last day as President.”

The UH 10-campus system is the state’s sole provider of public post-secondary education. Under Lassner’s leadership, UH successfully navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting personal health and maintaining academic performance while ensuring financial stability. Lassner also led a restructuring of the relationship with the UH Foundation that has led to record philanthropic investment; a new approach to advancing research that has led to record extramural funding; and initiatives that improved student metrics across the system, with record graduation rates, retention rates and incoming class sizes at multiple campuses.

“The job of UH President today is often described as the hardest job in the state,” said Lassner. “Constitutionally, the UH president reports to and is accountable to the Board. But we all know that faculty, students, staff, community members and legislators are also important stakeholders with strong views. It is an intense job, one I approach every day with energy and enthusiasm to pursue continuous improvement. But I am ready to planfully pass the torch to the next leader while I am able, active and healthy.”

Lassner began working at UH in entry-level roles in information technology (IT) in 1977, eventually becoming UH’s first chief information officer and then its first vice president for IT. He will turn 70 years old in 2024.

  *   *   *   *   *

Lassner’s full message

Aloha Regents,

We have been through much together, but this is the most difficult message I have written to the Board. I want to let you all know that it is my intention to retire as UH President at the end of 2024. I am sharing this by email to all of you since I understand some regents may not be able to attend Thursday’s meeting.

My decision is both personal and professional. I have worked at UH since 1977 and I never had any aspiration or expectation to serve as President. But when called on, I was willing to be considered to assume what I truly believe to be one of the most important roles in Hawaiʻi, leading the institution that is most critical to the future of our people and our islands.

I have now served more than ten years as your President. The last president to serve (survive) this long was Gregg M. Sinclair, from 1942–1955. In 1955 UH was a single campus with an enrollment of 5180. The job of UH President today is often described as the hardest job in the state. Constitutionally, the UH president reports to and is accountable to the Board. But we all know that faculty, students, staff, community members and legislators are also important stakeholders with strong views. It is an intense job, one I approach every day with energy and enthusiasm to pursue continuous improvement. But I am ready to planfully pass the torch to the next leader while I am able, active and healthy.

Professionally, I am incredibly proud of what our team has accomplished over these past ten years. I assumed the presidency in a time of many challenges. Today, your university is academically, financially, culturally and organizationally strong. Of course there are many ways we can improve—I probably know them as well as anyone. I have every confidence that the next leader will be able to hit the ground running to work with our amazing leaders and the Board to take UH to even greater heights with our new vision, mission and strategic plan as the foundation.

As you may know, by my choice I have no contract term. I have always been clear that when either the BOR or I decide it is time for me to step down, I want that to happen without acrimony, drama or lawyers. I have seen what difficult separations do to the institution I care for so deeply and do not want to be the cause of that.

Nonetheless, succession planning is an absolutely critical conversation at the highest levels of any organization. When the BOR raised this question several years ago I advised Chair Moore that it was my intent to retire at the end of 2024, the year I turn 70. Neither of us believed it would be useful to make that public. While I originally thought the best timing to announce this would be the first week of 2024, I looked back at our history and realized that UH‘s last presidential search took over a year to come to a decision. That transition was immediate since I was the interim president at the time. So depending on who the BOR selects, the timeline for a new president to actually start could be lengthier. Hence my announcement now.

UH has given so much to me over these past 46 years, including bringing me to Hawaiʻi and helping make it my home. I am committed to be flexible in supporting whatever search timeline and process the BOR adopts and to participate with enthusiasm in a transition that will be positive for UH and the next president. In the meantime, anyone who expects me to act like a “lame duck” will be sorely disappointed. I plan to actively advance all aspects of our mission until my last day as President.

Aloha, David

---30---

CB:UH President David Lassner Will Retire Next Year - Honolulu Civil Beat

SA: UH President David Lassner to retire at end of 2024 | Honolulu Star-Advertiser (staradvertiser.com)

Big Q: What do you think of David Lassner's tenure as University of Hawaii president?

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