University of Southern Indiana President Dr. Linda L. M. Bennett has announced her retirement after the 2017-18 school year. Bennett has served as the university’s president the past nine years. Before her inauguration, she served as USI’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs for about six years.
“I have to say that I’ve enjoyed my career and especially the phase here at USI,” said Bennett at a press conference. “I’ve served three other universities and they’re all wonderful institutions, but I am particularly grateful to wrap up my career here at USI.”
This December Bennett will be turning 65 and sees the age milestone as a good time to think about the next chapter of her life. "I've been thinking about this for a couple of years in terms of is this the right time," she said. "It feels right for me personally, it feels right for the institution, and I think that this institution is going to recruit very strongly in the market."
While serving as president, Bennett has led successful campus initiatives including the overseeing the university’s first doctoral program, Doctor of Nursing Practice, expanding the Master of Business Administration (MBA) to be available both on campus and online, and adding the manufacturing engineering degree, one of only around 20 such programs in the country.
In addition Bennett’s tenure the USI has expanded its physical campus with the development of the Business and Engineering Center, Performance Center, Lenny and Anne Dowhie Ceramics Center, Applied Engineering Center, and Griffin Center. Bennett has also overseen the renovation the University Center and the USI-Burdette Trail and the beginning of construction on the expansion and renovation of Physical Activites Center and the development of the Fuquay Welcome Center.
She’s also made her mark in the local community through contributing to multiple organizations including serving as the chairman of the board at WNIN. From those contributions Bennett has been awarded the Rotary Civic Award (2015), the Indiana Commission for Women Torchbearer Award and Trailblazer Award (2016), and the Boy Scouts of America Buffalo Trace Council Distinguished Citizen Award (2017).
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While she’s enjoyed helping others grow, she believes others have helped her grow. “It’s not just about students learning, of course that’s our focus. It’s about how do we learn,” she said. “And I can tell you I have just been amazed at the number of things that if you had asked me about the beginning of my term as president that I would be able to do; that I’ve learned from and grown.”
The USI Board of Trustees will be announcing plans this fall for a national search for USI’s next president.
And Bennett has some advice for the next president of USI, “Enjoy it. I mean it may seem odd in these day and times to say that it’s fun but it actually is. The people you work with here are phenomenal.”
However, she notes the job will come with some challenges, “We are not immune to challenges in higher education. The funding challenges are real; they’re just there and you have to make sure that you’re strong in your community. If you stay strong in your community, you’ll be able to face most challenges that come down. People will help you,” Bennet notes.
Though her time as USI’s president will end, Bennett does plan to remain in Evansville and continue to be involved in community service.
Last month the University of Evansville President Dr. Thomas Kazee announced his plans to retire after May of 2018. This leaves two local universities in Evansville both searching for new presidents.