Stanislaus State President Sheley to retire in July

CSU Stanislaus President Joseph Sheley waves to the attendees after his annual speech to the campus community in 2014.
CSU Stanislaus President Joseph Sheley waves to the attendees after his annual speech to the campus community in 2014. Tue Modesto Bee

Stanislaus State President Joseph Sheley will retire July 1, he announced Friday.

“My decision is not complicated. In life and career, there comes a time to listen a bit more to head and a bit less to heart. That time has come,” he wrote in a letter emailed at 9 a.m. to the Turlock campus.

Sheley, 68, has led California State University, Stanislaus, since June 2012. His collaborative style stood in contrast to the contentious administration of his predecessor, Hamid Shirvani, whose rocky record with faculty was capped by a vote of no confidence in November 2009.

Reached by phone Friday, Sheley said improving campus atmosphere is one of two areas he felt he has had a lasting impact.

“When I came, this was a campus that was not where it wanted to be in terms of the relationship of all the campus constituencies,” he said with characteristic tact. “I wanted employees to have the confidence the president was there for them. I think I’ve achieved that. It’s never done, but I think all the arrows are pointing in the right direction.”

Despite prickly negotiations statewide between the CSU system and its faculty union, Stanislaus professors gave Sheley points for improving relations.

“I was not pleased to see the president’s announcement,” said Mark Thompson, chair of the Academic Senate. “Joe Sheley deserves credit for bringing an academic perspective to the presidency, for reaching out to the community, and for restoring trust at Stan State.”

“From my point of view, I think he’s probably viewed as more respectful of the proper role of faculty at the university,” said California Faculty Association Stanislaus chapter President John Sarraillé. But, he added, he was disappointed the president did not take a more personal role in working with labor representatives.

The second area Sheley pointed to with pride was regional collaboration, with a focus on increasing access to college. “I hope we succeeded there,” Sheley said. “I hope the community really sees this university as its university.”

In the spring, Sheley helped launch the Stanislaus Education Partnership, linking the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Modesto Junior College and the university in an ongoing campaign to smooth the road from grade school to college for students and increase the percentage of degree-holders in the region.

“The partnership’s mission is to help ensure that students and their families know what it takes in junior high and high school to prepare for the next step, and once they get to college – here, at MJC or elsewhere – they have the knowledge, confidence and staying power to succeed in college,” he said.

Stan State, dubbed its official nickname this fall in Sheley’s annual address, has had a number of recent accolades, scoring well in nationwide ranking for the success of first generation and low-income students that make up the majority of its student body.

“The CSU is indebted to Joe Sheley for his two decades of leadership, the last four as president of CSU Stanislaus,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy White. “President Sheley elevated the profile of the university and established CSU Stanislaus as an integral force within the region, stimulating economic development and bolstering college attendance and completion rates.”

Under Sheley, the university has pursued several joint efforts with the city of Turlock and its downtown association, opening the Art Space on Main and most recently having a week to promote Turlock’s retail and restaurant trade with students.

“It has been an honor to know and work with Dr. Sheley in his role as President of CSU Stanislaus. He has not only been a valuable asset to the University, but a steady leader in Turlock,” said Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth. “Stanislaus State is a central part of Turlock's identity. I'm proud of our strengthening relationship with the campus and I know it will continue to grow stronger."

The president said he and wife Bernadette plan to keep busy for the next seven months. “Stanislaus State is a serious university with a serious purpose. We intend to continue working to keep it so,” he wrote in his letter.

Bernadette Sheley is active in several community organizations, including the Haven Women’s Center and Carnegie Arts Center boards.

Sheley said the couple will return to his native Sacramento, where their daughter lives, after retirement.

“We’ll miss it here. This is a really great campus that does great things, and historically has been under-recognized for its strengths,” Sheley said. “If we’ve done anything to raise its profile, we feel pretty good about our years here.”

Nan Austin: 209-578-2339, @NanAustin