Sacramento State University President Robert Nelsen announced he plans to retire in 2023.
“Well, it’s been a great ride. It’s been a great ride because of you,” Nelsen said in a video message sent to students, staff and faculty on Wednesday. “But now, really July 1st, it’s time to ‘hang ‘em up.’ It’s time to move on.”
Nelsen, who is 70, has led the university since 2015. Before coming to Sac State, he spent nearly three decades working in multiple roles at the University of Texas.
During Nelsen’s seven-year tenure as president, Sac State saw a 187% increase in 4-year graduation rates, something he said was a goal in coming into his role at the university.
The university also saw a significant amount of both construction and expansion of campus infrastructure during Nelsen’s time as president. Sac State expanded its University Union and gym and built the Tschannen Science Complex and planetarium, new dorms and a new parking structure. The university expanded into downtown Sacramento and announced plans to build a satellite campus in Placer County.
Congresswoman Doris Matsui issued a statement in response to the announcement on Wednesday, praising Nelsen’s work at Sac State.
“Robert has used his wealth of knowledge and expertise to lift up our students, open doors of opportunity and foster a safe, welcoming learning environment for all,” Matsui said. “I know he will continue to create positive change wherever his future endeavors take him, and I thank him for everything he has done for our great region.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg congratulated Nelsen in a tweet on Wednesday.
“You have forever changed Sacramento for the better with your compassion for [Sac State] students, your tireless drive for academic achievement [and] your exceptional commitment to our community,” Steinberg said.
Nelsen’s wife, Jody Nelsen, appeared beside him in the video and said that his decision to retire was “really difficult.”
“When I came here, I said that this was such a great university, even I couldn’t screw it up,” Robert Nelsen said. “You proved me right. We didn’t screw it up.”
Sacramento State officials said the California State University and its board of trustees will start a nationwide search for the university’s next president.
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