By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN — Wright State University President Dr. David Hopkins feels that the timing of his announcement to retire in June 2017 worked out beautifully.
“I never left college, I love college so much” Hopkins said. “I’ve been a professor, a chair, dean, provost, now a president — what a great life, what a privilege. I can’t think of a more privileged opportunity than to help people change and transform their lives.”
Talks of his retirement started in 2013 after Hopkins had served in his position for six years, which he said is the average time span a president will spend in such position. He and his wife initially felt that it would be best if he would continue his presidency until his contract expired in 2015. However, when the board asked if Hopkins would extend his contract until 2017, he agreed and felt good about doing so.
That period of time saw a number of projects with loose ends Hopkins wished to tie up, including fundraising for the Rise.Shine Campaign, construction on the Student Success Center and Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building as well as the modernization and expansion of the Creative Arts Center.
He is also excited for the upcoming presidential debate in September and was happy with Tom Hanks’s and David McCullough’s visits to campus last month.
He expressed that the coming months will call for more surprising announcements from Wright State, which he is excited about.
“The thing that’s deep in my heart and why I came to Wright State is [because] it’s committed to such a mission that’s so important to the future of our region and to our state and country — the idea that we welcome students from all backgrounds, all academic preparations, all financial aid wherewithal, all experiences in life — I’m so proud of that,” Hopkins said. “Why I’m so proud of that: we are the future of this country. Institutions like Wright State are reaching more people and helping them get a college education.”
He said more than 30,000 students have obtained a degree during his presidency and that approximately 37 percent of those graduates were first-generation college students, which means they were the first in their families to obtain a higher-education degree.
“That’s most important to me, because that’s me,” Hopkins said.
He said his father was just a couple of years shy of finishing high school. Hopkins earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education and master’s degree in mathematics from College of Wooster. He holds a doctorate in kinesiology from Indiana University. Now, each of his six children are higher-institute educated. His youngest, a college junior.
“You change the generation of a family,” Hopkins said. “What we’re doing with those students, and 83 percent of our graduates stay in Ohio, in this region, so when Wright State succeeds with a student, it means a lot to this community.”
The Cleveland native started his time at Wright State as provost in 2003; he was appointed as university president in 2007. He made his announcement to retire Monday, May 2. His last day is June 30, 2017.
Deciding what comes July 1, 2017 and beyond will come one step at a time. The search for Wright State’s next president will begin throughout the summer months and officials hope to have the next president identified by March 2017.
“I’ll always be here for Wright State,” Hopkins said. “I want to take a step back, think about my next adventure. I’m still young; I’ve been doing this for 42 years and I still feel that I have a lot of energy, but it’s time for someone else to have this opportunity.”
“I want to engage in the community, be a part of young people’s lives” he added, not ruling out the possibility of a faculty position in the future. “I don’t know how that’s going to materialize.”
He feels that Wright State exists to serve its students and the surrounding area, whether communities take advantage of its faculty, students and facilities.
“We are here to partner,” he said.
But ultimately, Hopkins said Wright State is there to make dreams come true. He refers to a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
“I don’t think students dream enough — what I try to get them (students) to do is … [think about] their career, what kind of life they want, what their calling is — that means they have to dream about it, know who they are, unravel the layers of who they are so that when they go out into the world, they can do something they love everyday,” Hopkins said. “Look inside, go deep, figure out what that dream is, then tell us. Tell us what your dream is because once we know it, we’ll bring all kinds of support to help you achieve it.”
Whitney Vickers can be reached by calling her directly at 937-502-4532. For more content online, visit our website or like our Facebook page.