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NWC President Paul Prestwich announces resignation

Paul Prestwich announced Monday he will resign his position as Northwest College president June 30, 2013, after concluding his current contract.

His departure will end a five-year tenure for the man who has served as the college’s seventh leader.

Prestwich didn’t indicate his future plans, but said he is committed to fulfilling the expectations of his office during the upcoming year.

“I’m appreciative of the experience I’ve had as president at Northwest College. I look forward to finishing strong over the next 16 months,” Prestwich said in a news release.

“As you might imagine, this was a difficult decision and not one that I made lightly. But the time has come to make plans to move in a different direction at the conclusion of the next academic year.”

Prestwich was contacted numerous times by the Tribune, but did not return messages by press time Monday.

Mark Westerhold, president of the NWC Board of Trustees, said, “This resignation was unexpected, but the board continues to support Dr. Prestwich through the remainder of his term and anticipates he will meet his goals.”

The NWC Board of Trustees in October narrowly approved extending Prestwich’s contract to June 30, 2012, by a vote of 4-3. That was six months later in the year than the previous contract extension it approved unanimously for Prestwich in April 2010.

Trustee Gloria Hedderman said she was surprised by Prestwich’s resignation, but thankful that he gave the board enough time to conduct a search for a new leader.

The board discussed Prestwich’s resignation during an executive session in Cody on Friday.

“I think he just feels it’s time to move on,” she said Monday. “It was what he wanted, not what we wanted.”

Prestwich’s leadership at Northwest College to date has been marked with record accomplishments and with turmoil on campus.

Achievements accomplished under his leadership include a sizable increase in enrollment, expansion of programming in academics, student life, scholarship support, intercollegiate athletics and more than $10 million in improvements to campus facilities.

Over the past three years, NWC’s student headcount grew 28 percent, the largest increase of any college in Wyoming.

“This incredible growth was the result of a great team effort,” Prestwich said. “Thanks to faculty, staff, students and supportive communities, Northwest was able to accomplish a complete turnaround from the early- to mid-2000s, when we were the slowest-growing college in the state.”

In addition to setting other institutional records, NWC granted more degrees last year than during any year on record.

Prestwich also oversaw the creation of the Trapper Scholarship program, widely attributed as a major factor in the college’s enrollment increase.

Also under Prestwich’s watch, the college built an addition to Simpson Hall, renovated and expanded Hinckley Library, built new broadcast and audio recording studios and a greenhouse, and added eight acres of athletic fields.

The athletic fields were added after Prestwich proposed, and the board agreed, to create NWC men’s and women’s soccer programs, a decision that fueled dissension and turmoil on campus.

Other sources of contention included differences between administrators and faculty over shared governance at the college, and recruiting letters sent two years ago to high school seniors who were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ongoing tensions at the college during the 2009-10 school year prompted the board to hire a mediator in September 2010 to help the administration, faculty, staff and students work constructively to overcome their differences. While much of that work took place during the 2010-11 school year, some still is ongoing.

A team from the Higher Learning Commission visited Northwest College and awarded the college with a seven-year accreditation. However, another Higher Learning Commission team visit will take place in spring 2013 to check NWC’s progress on shared governance, planning and student assessment.

Westerhold said the board will take on the hard task over the next several months of making plans to search for a new president and to assure a smooth transition for the benefit of the college.

“We — the board and every NWC employee — have a tremendous amount of work to do in the upcoming years,” Westerhold said, “to help the college become a world-class institution. We’ll now be doing it with a new person leading the charge.”

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3 comments

  • posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    March 08, 2012 7:56 am

    This is the sort of clowns people in Powell seem to want,as they sure do a poor job of screening people.Look at the past mess in the C of C.

  • posted by clipstein

    March 06, 2012 6:46 pm

    Wow another........ Now how about all the money he cost the people for economic development????? what about the bad reputation he cost powell?????? When are the good old boys going to learn common sense and logic in regrards to running powell

  • posted by NWC Alum and Local

    March 06, 2012 2:16 pm

    Hopefully we can get someone in there that actually cares about the students and this town. I would like to see a local who is going to have the best interest of the town and the students in mind. Not the church and their ego.

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