University of the Ozarks President Rick Niece to Retire

Dr. Rick D. Niece, the third longest serving president in University of the Ozarks history, announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.

Niece, who was named the university's 24th president in 1997, will step down on June 30, 2013, after 16 years at the helm of the Clarksville campus.

Only the presidencies of F.R. Earle (1858-1891) and Dr. Wiley Lin Hurie (1923-1949) lasted longer in the university's 178-year history, the university said in a news release.

"I have been blessed with a long, productive, and distinguished career in education," Niece said. "Education is magical. I began my professional life as a high school English teacher, and I now complete it as a university president."

The university said its board of trustees has formed a search committee composed of trustees, alumni, faculty, staff and students to select Niece's successor. The committee, led by trustee Chris Allen of Clarksville, will review candidates and recommend finalists.

The committee hopes to have the finalists on campus by November and a new president chosen by January.

Under Niece's leadership, the private, Presbyterian-affiliated university has seen student enrollment increase 19 percent, the endowment grow by more than 200 percent, and the number of full-time faculty increase from 28 to 48, the university said.

The university also added new facilities, including four apartment-style residence halls, the Walker Hall teacher education and communications center, the Rogers Conference Center and the Mabee Student Fitness Center.