NORMAL — Rob Widmer, who has been associated with higher education for four decades, including more than 20 at Heartland Community College, will retire as president of the Normal school next year.
“Over the years it has been very gratifying to see Heartland grow into an established resource for the community,” Widmer, 64, said on Friday after HCC announced his retirement. “Certainly, community colleges have come to the forefront over the years as excellent workforce development resources.”
Widmer's retirement is effective June 30, 2018.
He began as vice president of business services in 1996, when Heartland was in its infancy and has watched the 26-year-old college expand physically and academically.
“We didn’t come through the budget impasse unscathed by any means. Funding has been mitigated for the time being, but it’s hard to know what the future holds,” he said.
While college officials were frustrated with Springfield over the gridlock, HCC board of trustees chair Gregg Chadwick said Widmer was a source of strength and encouragement.
“He encouraged us to focus our energy on how to budget and put the college in the best position we can so if funding was delayed, we could still preserve our core mission,” said Chadwick.
When the college was still young, Chadwick said Widmer was very involved in the planning and development discussions.
“Rob is by nature really thoughtful and careful. He really puts the financial interests of the district in the forefront of all his work. In the past, he really helped the board consider big picture, long-term impacts for the college which we’re benefiting from today,” said Chadwick.
The board of trustees will convene in special session on Tuesday to discuss plans to select a successor. Widmer’s current salary is $210,345.
Chadwick thinks there “could be some internal candidates” for the position and the board also will work with search firms to generate a larger pool of candidates.
“Rob is very well-respected and trusted by the Heartland community and larger community. He has proved himself to be of the highest integrity. My hope is that whoever comes in behind him can carry on the legacy he has left,” said Chadwick.
As for the future of the college after his departure, Widmer said he doesn’t expect to see “dramatic change” because “the institution is so well-established.”
“The mission as a community college is well-established, whether for transfer students, career and technical programs, assistance with career and college readiness and career outreach. We are a diverse institution with a broad mission. Keeping our constituents in mind and serving the needs of our district is the most critical thing for the future," he said.
Widmer said after retirement, he plans to travel and spend time with his four sons and 10 grandchildren.
"I hope to be able to continue serving the community in a variety of ways as I remain here,” he said.