President Merten on retirement: 'All good things have to come to an end'

(Jake McLernon)

Mason President Alan Merten

Sixteen years after President Alan Merten first took the helm of George Mason University, he says he is proud to be retiring from a university that has been able to develop such a positive reputation around the world.

Merten will retire from the head position of the university in the spring of 2012, and as he begins the new school year he has “mixed emotions.”

“All good things have to come to an end,” said Merten. While Merten said the job is time consuming he said he has “enjoyed the responsibility,” but will also “enjoy not having it.”

Since Merten announced his retirement in the spring, other administrators at the university have also announced their resignation including the Dean of Admissions, former head men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga, Dean of the Volgenau School of Engineering, and Dean of the School of Health and Human Services.

While Merten expects there to perhaps be even more administrators who announce their retirement or resignation in the coming year, Merten isn’t surprised by the current departures.

“As Mason has become more visible we deal with the fact that people get recruited away,” said Merten. He added that because of this increasing visibility Mason is also bringing in really good candidates.

While each college dean at Mason reports to Provost Peter Stearns, Merten said he will also be involved in the process of appointing some of the new deans throughout the school year.

Merten said he doesn’t expect to implement any dramatic new changes in his last year; instead he plans to take this year as any other.

“Every day is a day where we can [get] GMU to be better,” said Merten.

Merten said that every day he tries to build on four key components of the university: innovation, location, current strengths at Mason and he said we must tell the Mason story.

Part of the story, as most faculty and students know, is that the university has grown substantially since Merten’s arrival. There has been an increase of more than 10,000 students since Merten first arrived and the operating budget of the university has grown from $200 million to the current budget of $900 million.

According to Merten, Mason is unique in how new ideas are addressed at the university, an idea that the university’s motto reflects: Innovation is Tradition.

“We don’t tell people how to do something, [we] tell people to do it good,” said Merten.

Merten said this makes Mason unique because when a faculty member has an idea of something he wants to implement, the idea won’t take a year to be enacted upon. Instead, Merten said, the university asks “what gets in their way” and how do we get rid of the obstacles. If it’s a good idea, the university will put it into action quickly.

“[Mason has] been able to grow and prosper with minimal bureaucracy,” said Merten.

But he admitted that bureaucracy can always be a concern for a growing university.

10 years from now, Merten expects the university to be even larger. With proper funding, Merten said, the university could have over 40,000 students.

There is still so much land that is under developed at the different campuses and the university has a lot of potential to expand. Merten hopes, however, that the growth will not come at the expense of teaching.

For now, Merten and the rest of George Mason University continue to accept more accolades as the university was ranked again this year in the top 5 most “Up-and-Coming Schools” in the nation, according to US News & World Report. Mason was ranked second.

When retirement comes for Merten this spring he said he and his wife, Sally, plan to stay in Northern Virginia and still be involved at Mason.

“This place has been a joy to lead and a joy to be part of,” said Merten. “We have accomplished things so far past my expectations.”

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)
Student Media Group: