I learned invaluable life lessons as a youth on my family’s dairy farm in the southern Illinois community of DeSoto. Growing up on the 163 acres obtained by my father’s ancestors in 1863 instilled in me the value of treasuring legacy, continuing tradition, and engaging in hard work. I grasped early on the need to be responsible, work within a productive unit, and be an optimist with faith in the future.

Those formative years became the foundation upon which I built a career as a higher education administrator. While I opted for a professional path that veered from farming, I continued to see myself as one who planted seeds for the future by helping others learn and evolve in their chosen field as they pursued their passion.

I also gained an appreciation for navigating through different seasons, each of which brings its own challenges and rewards. There are certainly cycles in education, from the start of the fall semester through to spring commencement ceremonies. The rhythm of learning and teaching is consistently interrupted by events beyond control, be it a pandemic, budget crisis, or national debate on divisive issues that demand a campus response.

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In January, I marked 50 years of working in higher education. Throughout those decades, I served in three states and at four institutions. I have had the joy of helping to nurture students as they reach their potential and become engaged citizens. I have had the challenge of guiding institutions through unexpected difficulties.

I did so at Illinois State by partnering with a team of exceptional leaders, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors to keep the University moving onward and upward. I would be remiss if I did not also note that my dedicated and enthusiastic wife, Marlene, has tirelessly kept me anchored and energized as she too served the University.

I will leave my Hovey Hall office in June to begin retirement grateful for the work that has been accomplished and confident in the University’s future. Marlene and I will remain ambassadors for the University and encourage you to do the same.

One of the greatest personal rewards of my term as ISU’s 19th president has been the opportunity to develop friendships with so many individuals who have a strong campus connection. From current students to donors who graduated decades ago, I have gained an eternal appreciation for the traits that define what it means to be a Redbird. Stay true to those values, regardless of your season in life.

Go You Redbirds!

Larry H. Dietz, Ph.D.
President, Illinois State University