Keith announces departure from Pfeiffer

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, February 17, 2019

Dr. Colleen Perry Keith announced Sunday she would be stepping down as president of Pfeiffer University.
Keith, who is the university’s 10th and first female president, will leave May 31 to become the president of Goldey-Beacom College, a school of more than 2,000 students in Wilmington, Del.

“It is always tough to make this kind of decision. Great things are happening at Pfeiffer, and there is a strategy in place that will take the university into the next phase of success,” Keith said in a press release. “A driving force behind this decision is family. Being in Delaware will put us less than two hours from my son.

“It’s common for search firms to reach out to all presidents about available positions,” she continued by email. “Most of the time I just hit the delete key, but when this one appeared, the location piqued my interest. I didn’t know if I’d be a viable candidate or not, but I knew if I gave up an opportunity to move closer to family, I may regret that,” she said. “In addition to my son, I am now within an afternoon’s drive of my 85- and 86-year old parents and some of my siblings. I haven’t been living close to my family for many years and as we all age, that becomes more important.”

The news comes less than a month after the university broke ground on the Pfeiffer University Center for Health Sciences in downtown Albemarle. The $16 million project is expected to have a more than $136 million economic impact over 10 years, according to Mark Donham, director of economic development for the city.
Keith said the decision to leave Pfeiffer was “extremely difficult.”

“I love Pfeiffer. The transformational work that is taking place in Albemarle and throughout the entire university system is the result of the dedication and relentless work of everyone involved with Pfeiffer to improve opportunities for our students and community,” Keith said via email. “This decision is extremely difficult, however, this opportunity will put us less than two hours away from my son. Had it not been for this I would not have considered leaving Pfeiffer. It’s incredibly difficult to leave people who have become friends. People leave positions all the time. I have tried hard to foster teamwork, leadership and cooperation among the senior leaders at Pfeiffer so that when any one of us would leave, there will be strength in the team to keep the work moving ahead. I know our team will push our work ahead.”

Her announcement to leave also is just weeks after Pfeiffer confirmed a former administrator is being investigated after allegations of embezzlement of as much as $500,000 were reported.

Keith denies that the report had anything to do with her decision.

“What happened at Pfeiffer could happen anywhere,” she said. “Pfeiffer is stronger than ever and has taken the appropriate steps to ensure the financial stability of the university.”

The Pfeiffer University Board of Trustees is now tasked with finding a new president.

“We are going to miss Dr. Keith, but we have a strong board and strong team that will keep Pfeiffer moving forward. This kind of change in leadership at this point in an organization’s success is not uncommon,” Pfeiffer Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Brietz said in the press release.
Keith joined Pfeiffer in July 2015. In her nearly four years as president, changes have happened quickly. The university sold and moved its Charlotte campus, moved athletics from NCAA Division II to Division III and refinanced debt to borrow from the USDA for upgrades at the Misenheimer campus and help create the program downtown.

“The Pfeiffer team is highly qualified, and the university is well positioned for the future,” Keith added. “I have appreciated the warm welcome I received from the communities that Pfeiffer is part of during my time here, and the collegial work of our board at Pfeiffer.”

Goldey-Beacom College is a Division II school founded in 1886, one year after Pfeiffer.

On May 4, 2018, Goldey-Beacom President Gary L. Wirt announced he would retire on June 30 of this year after more than four decades with the school.

“My decision to retire most certainly comes with mixed feelings – excitement about my personal journey ahead, optimism for a new leader at the helm, but also sadness in leaving a wonderful institution that has brought me together with so many remarkable people,” he said. “I have many warm memories from our days together – we certainly shared some hard work, plenty of laughter, and an occasional moment of sadness. I am most proud of what we have accomplished together on behalf of our students. After 45 years at GBC, I can honestly say that some of the best days of my life I have spent here.”