TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College's longest-serving president announced that he will retire in December 2019.
Tim Nelson, who has been with the college since 2001, made the announcement to NMC staff and faculty Thursday.
Nelson, who turns 66 on Friday, sat down with the Record-Eagle before the announcement was made. He said the college would not be the success it is without the community, which always has been very supportive of education and of NMC.
"This really is a community asset and it's been a privilege for me to be here this long and be a part of it," Nelson said.
The NMC Board of Trustees likely will hire a professional firm to do a national search for a new president, said Kennard R. Weaver, board president. The board will discuss the process at a retreat being held from noon to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hagerty Center. The retreat is open to the public.
A search committee that will include input from community members also will be appointed at an open meeting, Weaver said.
"We know that there already is — because of retirements coming up in the next five years — a lot of competition out there from community colleges looking for new presidents," Weaver said.
But Nelson is leaving the college in very good shape, Weaver said.
"He has done a good job," Weaver said. "It's going to be an attractive place for people who want to become a community college president."
Nelson has consistently done well on his evaluations, scoring 3.77 points out of a possible 4 in the most recent one done in June. He is paid $208,415 annually and is given a $750 per month vehicle allowance.
He is working under a five-year contract that requires that he give the board a one-year notice of retirement.
Nelson said he is proud of several things that have taken place during his tenure as president. In the area of infrastructure, several buildings have been added or renovated, including the current work being done on West Hall, which will be the college's new Innovation Center.
It also includes all the technology that has been added.
"I know it seems like it's always been here, but if you look back at what we were doing 20 years ago, there's no comparison," he said.
NMC also has invested in its employees and added programming, some of which is not offered anywhere else, Nelson said. Programs include those in advanced manufacturing, freshwater studies, maritime technology and unmanned aerial systems.
Nelson has advocated for NMC and other community colleges to be allowed to offer bachelor's degrees, which led to NMC being the first in the state to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in maritime technology.
Elaine Wood was a board trustee from 1990 until 2005, and was involved in hiring Nelson.
"I remember during that process that a couple of things struck me right away," Wood said. "We were looking at the very best candidates from across the nation and the obvious best choice was right here at home."
Through his years as president, Nelson has lived up to and even exceeded all expectations, she said, providing outstanding leadership to the college.
Nelson said his favorite memory through his years at NMC took place at his first opening conference as president. The event is a gathering of faculty and staff that takes place before the start of every fall and spring semester.
Each conference has a theme and his was "Keep learning at the center." The response from faculty and staff was overwhelming, he said.
"They just broke out into an unscripted applause that lasted until the end of the presentation," Nelson said. "It showed me that everybody was here for the right reason. I told them, 'We're not changing that for as long as I'm here.'"
Nelson said he is not worried about the future of NMC, that it is financially stable, with great people and a solid strategic plan.
"You know it's going to be different, but you don't know how," he said. "But the underpinnings are there that will make sure the college is stable."
Nelson said he'll stay in his Peninsula Township home, but doesn't yet know what he'll do with his time. He serves on several local and national boards, and he plans to continue those obligations. There also may be more opportunities to serve, he said.
He is an avid reader and likely will spend more time with his favorite spy novels. He also loves to camp and fish.
He jokes that it may take him 14 months to clear out his office, but that it's time.
"After almost 19 years it will just be time for someone else," he said.