Dr. Beheruz Sethna said Wednesday that "it has been my honor to lead UWG through this stage of its life. But I believe it is time to pass the torch of leadership.” (Photo by Cliff Williams/Times-Georgian)
University of West Georgia President Dr. Beheruz Sethna on Wednesday announced that he will retire next summer. Sethna, 64, will formally end his tenure of 19 years on June 30, 2013. "When I arrived at West Georgia, the prevailing opinion among many community leaders and some colleagues as well, was that I would be here for a couple of years, and move to a bigger, better, an more prestigious place," Sethna said in an email to all UWG faculty and staff Wednesday morning. "They were correct. I did. Together we have created a bigger, better, and more prestigious university." Sethna was instrumental in the university's growth from 7,957 students in 1993 when he arrived to more than 12,000 students today. Sethna said he believed the chancellor would start a search for his replacement soon, but said that "nothing will change" between his announcement and his retirement. "I have assured my colleagues that they will see no lameness and hear no quacking," the Bombay, India, native said. "I will not be a lame-duck president." Sethna will remain in Carrollton and at UWG, as a professor of business administration in the Richards College of Business. "Dr. Sethna has elevated the reach, brand and esteem of UWG throughout Georgia, the Southeast and nationally," said University System of Georgia (USG) Regent Ken Bernard. "Dr. Sethna was and is passionate about teaching, and this carried over in all his efforts, both at USG and UWG. In fact, he made it a priority that all administrators taught as part of their jobs. He will be missed, but his presence as a faculty member will be immensely valuable to UWG." Sethna has taught marketing for the last few years, maintaining his spot as one of the few university presidents who still teach a course. Sethna, currently the longest-serving university president in Georgia, among both public and private institutions, said the decision was "very difficult," and included some personal considerations. "I have worked at this job approximately 20 hours a day, seven days a week, 360 days a year, to the detriment of all other parts of my life," he said in the email. "The time has come for me to realize that there actually exists a world outside of my UWG world." He said he plans to spend most of his summers in India, working in an orphanage school there. He plans to teach English and science to the students in the Balgram school. During his tenure, UWG has made a long list of lasting achievements, which include acquiring university status, adding more facilities square footage than every other previous presidential administration combined in the institution's 106-year history, awarding the first Ph.D. in USG history outside of the four research universities and achieving national recognition in the field of academic debate, having beaten such institutions as Harvard more than once. "Whatever we've accomplished has been done as a team," Sethna said. "Some of these ideas were mine, but most have been others' ideas." What a president brings to the table, Sethna said, is a vision. "When I came to West Georgia, when it was still West Georgia College, there were good people here, but there was no reputation that was academically sound," he said. "Our alumni from the time said they loved their time here, but that they tell their children who are good students that they can do better than UWG. That was then. Now, we're getting valedictorians and salutatorians, and we've got people leaving our university and going to Ivy League schools and prestigious schools around the world. That's the change. It was a nice place, but I saw that it could be a better place." Sethna said what allowed him to steer UWG to becoming a destination university during his tenure was his passion and vision to "think bigger than this." "We had to find niche areas in which we could be outstanding and could excel over other institutions," he said. "And one of those is in undergrad research. We've had more papers presented at research competitions win than any other university in America." Sethna earned his Ph.D. in business (marketing) and a master's of philosophy degree at Columbia University in New York. His other academic credentials include a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad. He is believed to be the first person of Indian heritage to head a university in the United States and the first ethnic minority to do so in Georgia. Sethna has been married for more than 38 eyars to Dr. Madhavi Sethna, a faculty member at UWG. Together, they have two children, Dr. Anita Sethna and Shaun Sethna. "We continue to dream and achieve impossible dreams at West Georgia," Sethna said. "I will never stop wanting more for it and its students, faculty and staff and will remain as charged, as passionate and as enthusiastic about UWG as I was when I set foot on campus. It has been my honor and my privilege to serve as the president of the University of West Georgia."