Dr. Stephen Mulkey to retire as Unity president

Established national leadership in divestment, led campus to record enrollment,
brought significant upgrades to campus infrastructure

UNITY, Maine – Unity College President Dr. Stephen Mulkey has announced he intends to retire from the presidency effective Dec. 31.

The Board of Trustees reluctantly accepted his resignation and will join top administrators to craft a smooth transition plan, with specific details of the transition to be developed over the fall.

Hired in 2011, Mulkey quickly established himself as a dynamic presence on campus and nationally, especially in the movement to divest college investment portfolios of fossil fuel investments.

He exhorted the Unity College Board of Trustees to a unanimous vote in 2012 that led Unity to become the first U.S. college to divest its endowment of the 200 largest fossil fuel companies. More than two dozen other schools have since followed, removing more than $50 billion in college investments from climate-disrupting fossil fuels.

In other major achievements from Mulkey’s four-year tenure, he:

  • led a successful effort to adopt sustainability science as the framework for the entire college curriculum, as endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences;
  • received and stewarded the college’s largest-ever gift, $10 million;
  • sparked renovation and modernization of the college’s teaching and research facilities, including new laboratory spaces;
  • led a national marketing and branding effort to further establish Unity College as America’s Environmental College;
  • implemented construction of two new fossil fuel-free, suite-style residence halls (built to LEED Silver standard) and a new dining hall, with total construction value of more than $10 million and an increase in the campus footprint of 44,000 square feet;
  • created a professional graduate program in sustainability science to be rolled out in 2016;
  • designed, with the Board of Trustees and Unity College community, the current strategic plan to provide a foundation of academic excellence and financial sustainability for decades;
  • expanded faculty and staff assets by building a robust human infrastructure to support a 21st-century learning environment;
  • led a reorganization and hiring of mid- to senior-level administrators; and
  • at a time other small, not-for-profit, private colleges struggle to reach their enrollment goals, presided over three straight years of campus enrollment growth, which exceeded the college enrollment record in 2014.

“On behalf of the board, I wish to extend our profound gratitude and appreciation to both Stephen and Michele (Leavitt) for the many positive and indelible impressions they have made upon us, our college, and our community,” said Unity College Board of Trustees Chairman Bruce Nickerson. “Stephen has not only elevated the profile of our college, but he has built a solid infrastructure, stabilized enrollment while attracting a bright, energetic and engaged student body, made significant gains in fund raising, and implemented visible improvements to our campus.”

“Stephen is a tremendous mind, a force for sea change in the world of academia, a crucial voice for sanity and sustainability in the natural world and, most importantly, a valued friend and trusted colleague,” Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Melik Peter Khoury said. “He has led our college boldly into a new era of excellence in programming, service, and financial sustainability. The board and I are supremely confident that Unity College is well-positioned to continue its transformation into national prominence due to his efforts.”

Mulkey, Unity College’s 10th chief executive, holds a B.S. in Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife and an M.A. in Biology and Ecology, from the University of Missouri; and a Ph.D. in Biology and Ecology from the University of Pennsylvania. He is known globally for scientific research of ecosystems and is well recognized for research and program development relevant to climate change, which he calls “the greatest challenge of our time in what will come to be known as the environmental century.”

Unity College is planning various events scheduled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the college in July, commemorating a college that’s transformed itself from 30 students studying in modest facilities into America’s Environmental College.

“I wish to thank Stephen for reopening my eyes to the natural world and for all he and Michele have given of themselves to Unity and Unity College,” Nickerson said. “I commend them both on their stewardship. They will be leaving us far better than they found us.”

About Unity College
Unity College proudly celebrates its 50th year in 2015. The first institution of higher education in the nation to divest from fossil fuel investments, Unity is committed to educating the next generation of environmental professionals. Sustainability science lies at the heart of its educational mission, with 16 environmentally focused undergraduate majors. For more information, visit unity.edu.

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