The search is on for a new president at St. Thomas after current president Michael Higgins announced his resignation Wednesday afternoon.
Higgins, whose resignation takes effect on Dec. 31, 2009, said he made the decision over a year ago, after he was commissioned to write a biography of a prominent priest and psychologist.
“I want to go back to my life of scholarship as a writer,” he said. “I think the full-time attention that St. Thomas will need over the next number of years, it deserves. You get to a certain point in your life where you’re balancing priorities.”
In addition to the biography, Higgins is committed to writing another book, and will be working on a CBC documentary series.
Meanwhile, the university’s board of governors said it could take up to 18 months to find a new president.
During the interval, a human resources committee will be formed to find an interim president who will serve until a new president takes over, a process that could begin in a matter of weeks.
Higgins said there are no candidates in mind for either position, but a report by the search committee will be submitted to the board of governors on Sept. 3.
Higgins, who took over the position as president in July 2006, has had a lengthy career as an administrator, academic, author and journalist.
Born in Toronto in 1948, he received a BA from St. Francis Xavier, and both an MA and a PhD from York. He also has a BEd from the University of Toronto.
He’s the author of 11 books, including an award-winning work on Thomas Merton. As well, he’s written numerous newspaper columns, and worked as a CBC documentarist. All the while, he’s been involved in the senior administration of various universities for over 20 years, 10 of those as president.
Higgins spent the last three years at St. Thomas, where he served as president and vice-chancellor during the school’s only major labour dispute, the murder of much-loved sociology professor John McKendy, and controversial changes to the post-secondary school system by the provincial government.
Still, he said, these traumatizing moments were not factors in his decision.
“They’re problems that every president has to face,” he said. “These kinds of issues are not unique to us. It’s not as if I’m saying ‘I don’t like administration, I’m getting out of this.’ It’s that you begin to realize that you have to reset your priorities and you have to channel your energy.”
St. Thomas student’s union president Mark Henick said Higgins will be missed by the community.
“Dr. Higgins is well respected by students for his warm and approachable nature, so we will be sad to see him go,” Henick said in a news release.
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