University of Maine at Fort Kent President John Short in his campus office. Short announced on March 7 his plans to retire at the end of June. Credit: Courtesy of the University of Maine at Fort Kent

University of Maine at Fort Kent President John Short announced on Thursday his plans to retire at the end of the academic year after more than 40 years of scholarship and higher education leadership.

Short has served as the university’s president since April 2016, advancing several initiatives important to the campus, its students and the community. He will continue to serve through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

University of Maine System Chancellor James Page will discuss plans for transitional leadership, institutional priorities and regional needs with campus and community stakeholders to identify an interim leader for the university, according to Dan Demeritt, the university system’s executive director of public affairs.

The system will announce an interim president before May’s graduation ceremonies, according to the university system.

Short and his wife, Caryn, who suffered a heart attack last year, bought a house in Delaware following Caryn’s triple bypass open heart surgery. Demerritt indicated that the perspective of the health scare, her yearlong recovery, and the opportunity to spend more time with family helped inform Short’s retirement decision.

“Serving as president of UMFK has been an honor and the highlight of my 40-year career in higher education,” Short said. “UMFK is an amazing campus and resource for this area. As was the case when I accepted the presidency, I remain so impressed with the depth and emotional connection of the community with this campus.”

Short said he will serve actively through June and will be a lifelong supporter of the university and its mission.

“I am excited as we plan for our new Enrollment and Advancement Center, our being the University of Maine System lead institution with our all-online RN to BSN program, and UMFK’s evolution into Maine’s health sciences and professional programs campus,” he said.

“President Short embraced the opportunity to lead the University of Maine at Fort Kent, serve its students, and continue the institution’s strong traditions of community engagement and regional service,” Page said. “He has also been a valued member of a university leadership team that is committed to overcoming Maine’s workforce challenges through the establishment of a statewide continuum of public education that provides lifelong, Maine-focused access to educational programming and skill development.”

The chancellor noted, “We are grateful for President Short’s service to UMFK and to Maine. We wish John and Caryn well as they transition from campus life to retirement.”

“The University of Maine at Fort Kent is an essential partner in the future of the St. John Valley and we are all proud of the important statewide higher education leadership UMFK is providing in areas like health care, professional education, and early college education,” said Kelly Martin of Fort Kent, vice chair of the university system’s board of trustees.

“It has been a pleasure to welcome Caryn and President Short into our community and we appreciate his service and stewardship at UMFK,” she said.

During Short’s tenure, the university completed a 10-year master plan focused on establishing a Maine health sciences campus with professional programs, upgraded classroom technology to create state-of-the-art learning spaces and distance education facilities, transformed student affairs operations on campus, and increased endowed scholarships through the University of Maine at Fort Kent Foundation.

According to Demeritt, Short oversaw initiatives that strengthened partnerships both in the community and with other University of Maine campuses, including collaborations with the University of Maine at Presque Isle to help sustain local access to programs and strengthen resource sharing. The University of Maine at Fort Kent’s work with the system and the University of Southern Maine will result in the launch of an online master of science in nursing program. The campus also contributed to the establishment of the Valley Unified Regional High School, with the university as a higher education and early college partner.

Short has also emphasized University of Maine at Fort Kent’s business, behavioral sciences, forestry, biology/environmental sciences and criminal justice programs. The campus has strengthened its commitment to state service and leadership in terms of pre-licensure nursing education and early college access. It has expanded nursing enrollment by 53 percent over the last five years, including the fall 2018 launch of a new nursing cohort at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

The release added that the University of Maine at Fort Kent has led the state in delivery of early college programming, providing access to students in high schools across the state and increasing participation by 161 percent over the last five years.

This story was originally published in the Fiddlehead Focus.