Clark College President Bob Knight has announced his intent to retire from the Vancouver-based community college at the end of his contract in August 2019.
Knight joined the college in 2004 before being named acting president in 2006. He became president a year later.
Knight made his announcement during a special meeting Friday morning with the school’s executive cabinet.
“While this is a decision that my wife and I have been weighing for some time, I wanted to see the college through its accreditation process before informing trustees and executive cabinet,” Knight wrote in an email to college employees Friday morning. “Now that our review is complete and the college has received commendations in six areas, I feel comfortable that I am leaving this institution on firm footing.”
The Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting in the near future to begin the search for Knight’s replacement.
“On behalf of the entire Board of Trustees, I want to thank President Knight for his exemplary service during his 13 years leading Clark College,” said Royce Pollard, chair of the Clark College Board of Trustees. “For more than a decade, he has provided stability and vision that has allowed the college to grow, adapt, and serve its community.”
The news of Knight’s retirement came one day after his annual State of the College address. And while his retirement plans were not mentioned, Knight did speak about the ongoing struggle to recruit and retain faculty of color.
“Despite all of the work we have done to be more equity-focused, we have had struggles,” Knight said during his speech Thursday. “I continue to hear from employees of color and students of color that they don’t feel safe or supported. This is not acceptable to me or to the leadership of the college.”
Knight called for a series of campus meetings in October 2018 to address challenges around recruiting and retaining employees of color following a series of stories by OPB. Interviews with staff at the college highlighted a culture that alienated people of color and the subsequent resignations at the school.
The school has also been a target of white supremacist activity, with “it’s OK to be white” signs and anti-Semitic flyers found on campus last school year.
Clark College spokeswoman Hannah Erickson told OPB none of this had any influence on Knight’s decision to step down.
“The decision was completely President Knight’s,” Erickson said. “And it’s been one that he’s been considering even before the academic year began.”
But the news of Knight’s retirement still came as a surprise to some, including former Board of Trustees member Jack Burkman, who left in October after serving on the board for 10 years.
“This felt earlier than I would have thought,” said Burkman, who added Knight had alluded to retirement at some point but never said anything specific about plans to the board.
“He has been there quite a while, and I think he’s done a great job,” he added.
Burkman said he hopes whoever the board hires as Knight’s replacement will move the college forward when it comes to equity. He said this will be especially important as the college transitions toward Guided Pathways, a new educational model to help boost student completion and success.
“The whole concept is wrapped around removing barriers and making the college student ready. That’s especially important for our students of color at Clark,” Burkman said.
Knight’s last day as president of Clark College is scheduled for Aug. 31.