10:00 PM PDT on Monday, September 19, 2011

BY MARK MUCKENFUSS
The Press-Enterprise
mmuckenfuss@pe.com

Albert Karnig, president of Cal State San Bernardino for the past 15 years, announced his retirement Monday during his annual welcoming convocation to faculty and staff. Fall classes begin Thursday.

Karnig, 69, said he plans to retire at the end of the academic year in June but will remain until a new president is hired. California State University officials said the search for a new president would begin in January.

“It’s a good time to be handing a baton to someone else,” Karnig said.

He said he considered retirement several years ago, but the loss of two key vice presidents and the beginnings of the budgetary problems that have hit the state university systems convinced him it would be better to stay on.

“I thought the experience I had would be beneficial,” he said, referring to the fiscal challenges.

During his tenure, he said, the funding balance has shifted. A decade ago, the state provided three-quarters of the Cal State University budget; student fees made up the rest. This year, he said, student fees, which have nearly doubled in the past five years, account for 56 percent of the school’s budget, and the state is providing 44 percent.

While budget woes have not abated, he said he is confident in the current leadership at the university.

J. Milton Clark, associate vice president for undergraduate studies, said Karnig’s fiscal acumen is one of the qualities he will be remembered for.

“I think it’s entirely due to Dr. Karnig’s prudent fiscal management that we’ve been insulated from the worst impacts of (the recent) budget cuts,” Clark said, noting the lack of faculty layoffs and the retention of most class offerings.

He said Karnig’s leadership had led to better atmosphere on campus.

“We’re a more cohesive, united community than we were 15 years ago,” he said. “I think morale is better.”

Clark, who started teaching at the school in 1978, said Karnig’s people skills are admirable. He recalled traveling to Orange County to receive an award from the California Association of Teachers of English and being surprised when Karnig and his wife, Marilyn, walked into the hotel where the event was taking place. At first, Clark said, he wondered what the president was doing there, thinking it was simply a coincidence.

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