Nikkel plans to retire from Tabor presidency at year’s end

Tabor College will enter 2008, its centennial year, under the leadership of a new president.

Larry W. Nikkel, the 12th president of Tabor College, has announced his plans to retire, effective Dec. 31, a decision nearly a year in the making. He was inaugurated into office as interim president in 1998 and president in 1999.

Because of health-related issues preventing him from being present, Nikkel issued a written statement to be read to the Board of Directors and staff and faculty members. A formal announcement was made to those in attendance at the President’s Dinner Friday evening, an invitation-only event for major donors to the college’s annual fund.

“At the May 2006 board meeting, a board member reminded me that when I came in 1998, I told the board that I could see myself staying for a seven-year term of service,” Nikkel wrote in the prepared statement.

“Having seen that seven-year period come and go, he wondered about my future intentions. That began a series of in-depth discussions between Elaine and me, with people whose spiritual judgment we respect, with members of the cabinet, with our family, and with the executive committee of the board. We have committed ourselves to a total yieldedness to God in this matter.

“This decision was arrived at in the midst of significant ambivalence. The forces that were compelling for continuation include our mission and vision, the development of relationships that extend well beyond raising money and other functions of management. However, when one considers what will be required in the immediate years ahead, it has become clear that such a commitment is beyond what we can or should make.”

Nikkel said he made the decision prior to the mild heart attack he suffered two weekends ago while he and wife Elaine were in Hawaii on a trip given to them by the Tabor constituency.

After being placed in a hospital in Honolulu, Nikkel then underwent a double bypass surgery Wednesday after a heart catheterization revealed blockage in two arteries to the heart.

He returned home with his wife Friday and plans to return to work in about four weeks, he said.

“While the decision to retire came before the heart attack, that incident has seemed to provide a punctuation mark of some sort!” Nikkel wrote in his prepared statement.

Students, faculty and staff members were updated on Nikkel’s condition and notified of his plans to retire in a campus-wide email Friday afternoon prior to the President’s Dinner.

During Nikkel’s presidency, the college’s endowment grew from $2.55 million to $4.45 million. The campus also increased in size and was improved by the addition of several houses for student use, a strength training facility and internal and external remodeling to residence and academic facilities.

Nikkel also oversaw and brought to completion the “Continuing a Legacy of Distinction” campaign for new residence halls, and was the driving force behind securing the college’s two single largest gifts in his history.

Nikkel views his work as far from over, though. In the 10 months remaining before his retirement, he said he believes the following things can be accomplished to serve as a spring board for the years ahead:

complete the residence hall construction;

implement a marketing plan;

complete the strategic plan;

complete the planning and fund-raising for the football/track facility and begin construction;

launch the school for adult and graduate studies;

complete the essential elements for the centennial year celebration;

complete the campus development plan, which will begin to yield the priorities of the centennial campaign;

identify leadership gifts for the campaign.

Nikkel said he recognizes that each staff and faculty member is responsible for Tabor’s success during his presidency.

“What we’ve done, we’ve done together,” he said. “This is not about me. This is about us.

“We’ve had a lot of people pulling in the same direction, and when we’ve done that, we’ve been able to get a lot of good things done. This has been a team effort.”

A search committee has been appointed by the Board of Directors and will begin its work immediately.

Members include Ted Faszer of Sioux Falls, S.D.; David Wiebe of Kearney, Neb.; Diana Raugust of Wichita; and Rusty Allen, Judy Harder and Steve Schroeder, all of Hillsboro.

“We are at an important point in our history leading up to our centennial celebration,” said Lyndon Vix, chair of the Board of Directors.

“We have a lot of things on the drawing board and we are now going to choose the person who is going to give leadership to making some of those things happen.”

Vix added that by giving plenty of notice of his imminent departure, Nikkel has helped the board begin a smooth transition into selecting a new president over the next year.

“Larry has been so open and gracious the way he’s handled it,” Vix said. “For him to allow us to do a thorough, non-rushed search for a new president is a real gift.

“I just think the whole process is going to be real positive for us.”

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