Illinois State University President Larry Dietz announced Friday he will retire as the University’s 19th president on June 30, 2021, capping a higher education career surpassing 50 years.
Board of Trustees Chair Julie Annette Jones said the search process for the University’s 20th president will begin immediately.
“President Dietz’s remarkable tenure has spanned a half-century of rapid change, success, and challenge for higher education, and his vision and steadfast commitment have been the bedrock of his service,” said Jones. “I know the Board of Trustees and the entire University community will join me in offering Dr. Dietz our deepest gratitude and congratulating him on more than five decades of stellar service to the field of higher education. His legacy will be one of enduring quality, leading with authenticity, and serving as a model of civility. We also thank and congratulate his spouse and University First Lady Marlene Dietz for her numerous contributions to the success of Illinois State and the greater community. Her phenomenal Redbird loyalty and far-reaching community support shows that Marlene and Larry make a unique and exceptional team.”
Dietz arrived at Illinois State in June 2011 as vice president for Student Affairs and tenured associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations. He was appointed Illinois State’s 19th president in March 2014.
During his tenure, the University has enjoyed thriving enrollment and is continually ranked among the top universities in the United States for high graduation and retention rates, and low student loan default rates. Dietz oversaw revisions of Illinois State’s strategic plan and expanded on its core values, which are currently Learning and Scholarship, Diversity and Inclusion, Respect, Collaboration, Individualized Attention, Civic Engagement, and Integrity.
Reinforcing those values in an environment of shared governance, he secured the addition of a degree program in cybersecurity while paving the way for a new engineering program. His initiatives include opening the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning, renovating the Bone Student Center, creating a more international campus community, and shepherding plans for the new Multicultural Center. Dietz also created the Campus Climate Task Force in 2016 to review diversity, equity, and inclusion needs on campus, and formed the President’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council. He also hired the University’s first assistant to the president for Diversity and Inclusion.
Fundraising under Dietz’s leadership reached record levels with gifts and commitments totaling more than $180 million through Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State University. Of the record 56,143 donors who participated in the University’s second comprehensive campaign, 27,254 were first-time contributors and 30,554 were alumni. More than 1,500 corporate partners invested over $27.8 million in Illinois State. Redbirds Rising included 27 pacesetting gifts of $1 million or more, while 26 percent of the campaign’s total came from gifts of less than $25,000. Two eight-figure contributions were part of Redbirds Rising. The landmark gift from ISU graduate Wonsook Kim and her spouse, Thomas Clement, resulted in the naming of the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts and the Wonsook Kim School of Art. The historic eight-figure commitment from alumni Jim and Carole Mounier supports Redbird Athletics.
Since March, Dietz has led the University as it grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s worst health event of our lifetimes. Dietz says working to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the University community will remain Illinois State’s top priority during his final months on campus. Dietz also managed the University through a financial crisis, the 793-day Illinois budget impasse from July 1, 2015, to August 31, 2017. Dietz often used the phrase “strong and stable” to define Illinois State’s resiliency during those fiscally troubling years.
Currently the longest serving of all Illinois public university presidents, Dietz will complete his fourth year as the convener of the Illinois public university presidents and chancellors group.
Dietz’s local and regional honors include the McLean County Chamber of Commerce Legacy of Excellence Award and the Outstanding Volunteer Mission Award from the American Heart and Stroke Association. He also earned the Missouri Valley Conference Outstanding Leadership Award as chair of the MVC President’s Council. Additionally, Dietz has served on numerous local not-for-profit agency committees, many times jointly chairing community efforts with Marlene. Their service included co-chairing events benefitting the American Red Cross, Easter Seals, March of Dimes, Illinois Symphony, and Marcfirst.
“I believe my final seven months as president may indeed be the busiest and most challenging of my career as I continue to work with our faculty and staff colleagues to keep the University community as safe and healthy as possible while still delivering a high-quality ISU experience,” Dietz said. “In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly trigger severe budget challenges which must be addressed in the coming months. However, as my career in higher education draws to its conclusion, an emotion that fills my heart today is one of gratitude. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve with so many terrific students, faculty, staff members, alumni, retirees, and friends. I am thankful to our Board of Trustees for the confidence they placed in me six years ago, and for the support and guidance they have offered ever since. In 50-plus years of service, I have experienced innumerable highs, and as you might imagine, a few lows. I can honestly say I have learned to appreciate life and work during times of great challenge as well as during periods of growing success. I am forever grateful to my family, friends, and colleagues for their support, and thankful that I have been able to spend so much of that time with my wife, Marlene, by my side. When I became president, she set aside her own successful career to partner with me at Illinois State, and she has filled my days with limitless joy. It is my hope—and I think the hope of every university president—to leave an institution stronger than when they arrived. As a community, we have done more than stay strong and stable. We have forged a new path for a bright future.”
Dietz earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration and a master’s degree in higher education and student personnel from Iowa State University. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern Illinois University. He attended the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University, a Fulbright International Education Seminar for Administrators in Germany, and the Harvard Management Development Program.
Before arriving at Illinois State, Dietz served as vice chancellor for Student Affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) for 10 years. Dietz also served as special assistant to the chancellor at SIUC and as a tenured associate professor in educational administration and higher education.
Prior to his tenure at SIUC, he served as vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, among other leadership positions, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and in leadership positions at Iowa State University.