University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart said Monday that he will retire from the post on July 31 and return to teaching.
Early word of Gearhart's departure was first reported Monday morning by the Arkansas Times blog. The UA announced the retirement in a news release just before 1 p.m.
"I have four main reasons for making this difficult decision," the chancellor wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to UA System President Don Bobbitt. "They are our four grandchildren: Ben, age 5; Caroline, age 4; Ellie, almost 2; and soon to be born, Lily Jane. Going forward, I hope to spend more quality time with each of them as well as with our children and their spouses, Katy and Justin and Brock and Lindsey."
More: Read Gearhart's retirement letter to Bobbitt.
The news release noted Gearhart's "20 years of service" to the UA, with Gearhart guiding UA "through an unprecedented period of growth." Gearhart was UA's director of development in the 1980s and spent 10 years as vice chancellor for University Advancement. He was named chancellor in 2008.
As vice chancellor, Gearhart led the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, the UA's largest fundraising effort ever. That campaign saw the largest single gift made to an American public institution of higher education: a record $300 million donation in 2002 from the Walton family to found an Honors College and endow the Graduate School. That followed the family's $50 million gift in 1998 to endow the Sam M. Walton College of Business.
Last year Gearhart opposed the UA System's using a $5 million loan to help kickstart an online education program known as eVersity. Bobbitt subsequently re-emphasized support for the program.
Gearhart faced scrutiny from legislators after a $4.2 million shortfall in the school's advancement division came to light at the end of 2012. UA trustees ultimately gave Gearhart a vote of confidence for his response.
For fiscal 2014, Gearhart received a total compensation package of $411,236, plus $225,000 in deferred compensation from the University of Arkansas Foundation.
The UA says that after stepping down from the chancellor’s post, Gearhart "plans to take a period time off, and then continue teaching." He is a member of the UA College of Education and Health Professions faculty.
Bobbitt said he plans to work "deliberately but aggressively" to find the next chancellor.
"Given the strong position of the institution, its top 50 national research university aspirations and the statewide support it garners, I know this will be a much sought-after position," Bobbitt said in a news release. "I look forward to working with campus administrative and faculty leaders, the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees and other stakeholders to name the next chancellor."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)