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IWU President announces retirement at the end of the academic year

Written by on November 6, 2023

Photo provided by President Georgia Nugent

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – On October 20, 2023, the 20th president of Illinois Wesleyan University Georgia Nugent announced her decision to step down from her role following the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

Before she came to IWU, Nugent graduated as a first-generation college student with a bachelor’s degree from Princeton and a doctorate from Cornell. She also served in various roles at Princeton in addition to teaching at notable universities such as Princeton, Brown and Cornell.

While Nugent was thrilled to be the first woman to serve as Illinois Wesleyan’s president, she was no stranger to this title as she obtained it twice previously. She originally earned the honor in 2003 at Kenyon College and again in 2015 as interim president of the College of Wooster.

She believes these opportunities speak to a large change in society and hopes her ability to step into those roles will be a role model for other people and begin to open more doors.

While reflecting on her time in the position to which she was elected in 2019, she did not hesitate to share the part of the university and area she will miss most: the students and alumni.

She believes the small school allows for students to network and gain lifelong friendships with fellow students and staff. Nugent thinks these relationships not only contribute to a greater education but encourage students to return to IWU events like reunions and homecomings.

She also noted the Illinois State vs. Illinois Wesleyan basketball exhibition games as a great example of the community spirit and mutual respect throughout the twin cities.

“The three higher education institutions are not at all competitive. We really try to share resources and share ideas and that’s been a really great part of being here,” she said. 

Throughout her time at Illinois Wesleyan, she has also had the privilege to assist in many projects. One of which she is most proud is the implementation of new programs and majors such as public health and kinesiology, as well as digital marketing and quantitative finance within the nursing and business departments.

Another event she highlighted was the institution’s response to COVID-19. She believes the pandemic taught the school there were things that they could do online that would actually be even better learning experiences. 

The final event she spoke highly of was her attempt to change policies one-by-one to provide greater equity for not only the students but faculty and staff as well.

Upon the conclusion of her presidency, President Nugent plans to return to the east coast. She and her husband are excited to move back to their home in Princeton, New Jersey. While there, she intends to continue writing about higher education and serving on numerous boards of trustees.

As she steps down from her role, President Nugent hopes she has made a lasting impact on the school and community.

“My goal as a president is always that you hope you leave a place somewhat better than you found it and well-prepared for the next phase,” she said. “That’s always been my goal and I hope I have kind of moved toward that, and it will be exciting to see who has that next opportunity.”

The search for the university’s 21st president is currently underway and headed by Trustee Tom Lawrence.