STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ James Halligan announced his retirement Wednesday as president of Oklahoma State University, two years sooner than he expected when he took the job in 1994.
Halligan has agreed to remain on the job until a replacement is hired, but asked the school's regents to move quickly to replace him. He said he hopes a new president will be hired in six to eight months.
``I'm turning 66 years old, and Ann and I have been at the head of a campus for 20 years now,'' said Halligan, who spent 10 years as president of New Mexico State before coming to Stillwater.
``Our time at OSU has been a joy, but at this point in our lives, we also want the flexibility to spend time with our eight grandchildren. Time is one perk no one can promise a university president.''
Halligan said he expected to spend 10 years on the job, but that a series of recent events convinced him the timing is right to step aside now so a new president can be involved in important planning and decision-making. The events were not specified in a news release issued by the university.
``I'm sorry this announcement occurs at a time when our students and faculty are away, but once Ann and I told the board our decision, it was the general consensus that we needed to move ahead,'' he said.
He said he would like to continue working on several projects, including the university's efforts to attract federal and private funds for sensor research and the plans to renovate the football stadium. But he said he can do those things while removed from the demanding schedule of a university president.
Regents Chairman Fred Harlan said Halligan ``has had a truly remarkable presidency.''
``The Board of Regents and the entire OSU family appreciate Jim and Ann for their inspired leadership since 1994 and will look forward to working with them during their remaining six to eight months in office,'' Harlan said. ``Further, we are pleased Jim and Ann agreed to remain involved after retirement with OSU and assist a new president as a means to ensure the positive momentum we enjoy today will continue.''
As chief executive officer for the OSU System, Halligan is responsible for the university's campuses in Stillwater, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee, as well as OSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Halligan helped reverse 12 years of declining enrollments and helped OSU's first capital campaign double its original goal, eventually raising more than $270 million.
He is credited with lowering administrative costs to concentrate on faculty salaries, and he stressed the university's role in research and economic development. Since he took office, freshman-to-sophomore retention rates increased to 85 percent; more than $380 million in learning and research facilities have been built.
``I can't begin to tell you how much Ann and I appreciate the support we have received from day one at Oklahoma State University,'' Halligan said.