Springfield College President Richard B. Flynn announced his retirement first to the Board of Trustees over the weekend, and then to the campus of Springfield College on Tues., Feb. 12. He will continue serving up until August 31, 2013.
“When I look back at my time at Springfield College, I will remember the caring and dedicated faculty and staff, the talented and committed leadership team, the alumni who make a difference, the Board of Trustees that is both genuinely and generously supportive of the College’s mission, and our amazing students who, year after year and even today, never fail to bring a smile to my face, and who make our collective efforts worthwhile. Be assured that I will follow your good work with heartfelt interest, and that my hopes, thoughts, and prayers will always be with you and this College we all love so much,” Flynn said in an email to the faculty and staff on Feb. 12.
For Flynn, the time to pass the torch has arrived for the second and final time. In 2011, after 12 years as the institution’s 12th president, he was ready to transition into the next phase of his life. An unexpected breakthrough on several long-term projects and Mother Nature deterred that plan, however. The college was able to acquire the Springfield Plumbing and Waterfront Club buildings, which allowed them to prepare for a proposed westward expansion of the campus. Around the same time, the June 1, 2011 tornado, Hurricane Irene and the 2011 Halloween Nor’easter’s combined effect on the campus left it in need of a strong leader at the helm, and with his beloved college reeling, Flynn knew that his first attempt at retirement would be short-lived.
“To turn my back on the institution when the tornado came, I could never do that. I’d be turning my back on my family,” Flynn said. “We stayed to do some things. We made a lot of progress thanks to a lot of people on our recovery from the tornado and the Halloween blizzard and the hurricane and everything else.”
Although he was all set for retirement after purchasing a house in Lawrence, Kan. to be closer to his maternal family, Flynn stayed on as president to ensure that the college not only overcame, but prospered through the natural disasters.
Now after two additional years as president, Flynn feels that the timing is right, although still no easier than last time.
“It’s going to be tough. I’ve always considered the students here as my surrogate family of sorts,” Flynn said. “I’m going into another phase of life. I’m making this decision because I want to spend more time and be more a part of the lives of my children and grandchildren.”
Flynn has always strived to put students first during his tenure at SC ever since he was inaugurated in May 1999. As president, he has overseen a number of changes on the campus that have helped to transform the college into what it is today.
A few of those changes that happened under his watch include, but are not limited to, the creation of a new Physical Therapy doctorate, new Nutritional Sciences Program, increased community involvement, a nearly 25 percent increase of student enrollment, the single-most successful fundraising campaign in the college’s history (Leadership for the 21st Century: The Campaign for Springfield College raised $44.5 million), the building of six new facilities and a major sports complex, and the renovation of another 13 existing facilities and athletic/recreational areas. The Board of Trustees aptly and unanimously named one of those new buildings, the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union, after him on Feb. 4, 2010.
Yet despite all of these accomplishments during his time, Flynn is quick to point out that his proudest memories will not be derived from these successes, but something else entirely.
“Facilities are to facilitate programs. And what are programs for? They’re for the students. The thing that makes me most proud would be the success of our students,” Flynn said. “I got into the business of education because of students.
“I try to remind people every chance I get that that’s why this institution exists…to serve students. We’re all in a service profession. Even as president I’ve always considered myself to be part of a service profession.”
This dedication to his students is what drove Flynn to never be complacent, but instead to always work for ways to improve and enhance students’ experiences. He considers the time he put into his work at SC a “labor of love” and the “highlight of my professional career.”
Although he announced his retirement, there is still work to be done before August 31 arrives. Flynn has been instrumental in creating a master plan for the college, a responsibility that he takes very seriously.
“I think the Board [of Trustees] will not let it fall by the wayside. We have the strategic plan and we have the master plan and the Board has really charged me with that responsibility to develop the master plan,” Flynn said. “They’ve asked me if I will continue that until it’s finished.”
Flynn plans on finishing the master plan in order to provide the Board with a “roadmap to the future.” He had no desire to speak of what he will miss quite yet, because he still feels that his job is not complete.
“As we look at our strategic plan and our master plan and the roadmap for the future, I certainly hope we continue on that road to making this college the premier institution of educating students in spirit, mind and body for leadership and service to others,” Flynn said.
In a press release, Board Chair Douglass Coupe indicated that a search firm will be identified soon, and a committee representative will be named by the Board to assist with the search.
While the college begins its search for its 13th president, Flynn will continue on, striving to mold SC into the best possible experience for students.
“I put my heart and soul into the job. I don’t know how to do it any other way,” Flynn said. “I’m leaving here with memory books, and Jani with pages of memory books that are going to last us a lifetime.
“I love this college.”