Cal State San Bernardino President Albert Karnig officially kicked off the start of his 15th year as president of the university with his annual convocation address Monday to an audience of nearly 1,000, and in the process delivered a message that greatly surprised the faculty and staff in attendance.
Karnig, 69, announced he will retire at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, which begins with the start of fall classes on Thursday, Sept. 22. The president said that he agreed with California State University Chancellor Charles Reed’s request that he remain at the helm until after a replacement is named and is on board. The chancellor’s office will begin the national search for a new president in January.
“While I still enjoy what I do, it’s time to pass the torch to a new steward,” Karnig said, noting that the support given to him and his wife Marilyn since they arrived in 1997 made it clear that Cal State San Bernardino would be their home for “as long as you wanted us to stay.
“I fell in love with CSUSB’s mission, the region’s incredibly warm reception for Marilyn and me, the staggering diversity and needs of the student body, the vital role of this campus in the communities we serve, and you all, as well,” he told the surprised convocation day audience, which saluted the president with an extended standing ovation following his address.
Karnig took over as Cal State San Bernardino president in August 1997, becoming only the third person to hold the office since the university opened in 1965, following John M. Pfau and Anthony H. Evans.
Since he was named president, CSUSB has seen records in enrollment, diversity of faculty and students, grant and contract funding, overhead funds, fundraising and international program development. However, Karnig rates among his proudest achievements the university’s key role in successfully educating students in a two-county region that has the lowest percentage of college graduates of any U.S. metropolitan area with a population of more than one million residents.
“You open the doors of opportunity to those underserved in the past – with an astonishing 70 percent of our graduates the first in their families to finish college, and that after their education at CSUSB in which the value added is at the 96th percentile,” he told the audience. “Let me assure you that those two successes trump most anything else that can be placed on the higher education agenda.”
Karnig pointed to recent results from the Collegiate Learning Assessment – employed by hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation to test freshmen students and seniors – to serve as an evaluation of value added by a college education. The 2010-2011 data indicates that students entered CSUSB with an assessment score in the 31st percentile, which reflects the university’s mission of providing broad access to many students. Senior year CSUSB student scores were 25 percent higher, at the 56th percentile, which placed Cal State San Bernardino in the top 4 percent nationally for the degree of learning students acquired while in college, scoring at the 96th percentile.
CSUSB has significantly improved its student persistence rates, ranking among the leaders for first-to-second year retention among all California State University campuses, and it is among the leading CSU schools in retaining African American and Latino students.
“Our 86 percent first-to-second year retention rate is far higher than predicted on the basis of 70 percent of CSUSB students requiring remediation in math, English or both, though it’s pleasing that 90 percent of those students are remediated within one year of entering the university,” Karnig said.
Cal State San Bernardino has continued to improve its national rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Forbes and the Princeton Review. For the fifth straight year, the university was named to the President’s Community Service Honor Roll, and it was included on the 2011 lists of Military Friendly Schools and Top 200 Colleges for Native Americans. And CSUSB was one of only four U.S. institutions and 18 in the world designated as Most Innovative Business Colleges by European CEO Magazine.
He created the President’s Academic Excellence Scholarships, and since its beginning in 2002, more than 300 of the top 1 percent of San Bernardino County high school students have accepted the scholarship to attend CSUSB.
The university has established more than 500 community partnerships, ranging from founding a $35 million campus in Palm Desert, to agreements with various hospitals and health districts in graduating more nursing students, to contributing to numerous other efforts, including efforts to advance successful elementary and secondary education and nurture the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
In recent years, CSUSB launched its first doctoral program in educational leadership, and it added its inaugural engineering program in computer science and engineering, as well as its first two Master of Fine Arts programs in creative writing and visual arts.
Under his leadership, the campus has constructed or expanded more than 1.5 million square feet of facilities, and the most recent addition, the Murillo Family Astronomy Observatory, will open this fall on the north side of campus. In addition, CSUSB has erected four buildings at its permanent branch campus in Palm Desert entirely without state funds. CSUSB’s Palm Desert Campus was built with more than $40 million raised during the Karnig years.
Cal State San Bernardino has created more than a dozen highly active research and service centers over the past 15 years, including Watson and Associates Literacy Center, the William and Barbara Leonard Transportation Center, Inland Empire Entrepreneurship Center, Palm Springs Center for a Sustainable Environment and others focused on issues as diverse as water, economics education, developmental disabilities, global economics, hate and extremism, Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, child development, indigenous peoples, health disparities, criminal justice, learning, public opinion, recidivism, and many more.
Karnig previously served as provost at the University of Wyoming and associate vice president for academic affairs at Arizona State University. He also directed ASU’s School of Public Affairs, which was ranked among the nation’s 10 leading public policy and administration programs. He has published two books, more than 60 refereed articles and numerous monographs as a public affairs and political science professor.
His academic work includes grants from national and state agencies; and consulting with the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Labor, International City Managers’ Association, and other organizations.
Karnig has been recognized with numerous awards and honors while at CSUSB. Among those recognitions are the “El Sol Azteca Award” from La Prensa (2001); “Keeper of the Light Award” from the CSUSB Black Faculty and Staff (2002); NAACP’s “Pioneer Award” (2003); Diocese of San Bernardino’s “Vision of Hope Award” (2003); U.S. Rep. Joe Baca’s “Community Leadership Award for Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Community” (2004); The Business Press’ “Public Sector Leader of Distinction for the entire Inland Empire” (2004); “Community Leadership Award” by the Baldy View Chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California (2004); “Citizen of Achievement Award” by the San Bernardino Chapter of the League of Women Voters (2005); “Community Service Award,” from the Central City Lutheran Mission of San Bernardino (2005); with his wife, Marilyn, chosen by the San Bernardino YWCA as “Humanitarians of the Year,” (2006); “Educator of the Year Award” from the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, (2007); “Commitment to Diversity Award” from Minority Access Association, Inc., (2007); “College Opportunity Champion” from the Campaign for College Opportunity, (2007); “Honorary Black Rose Award” from the San Bernardino Black Culture Foundation, (2007); “African American Health Initiative Contribution Award” (2009); and the “Outstanding Educator Award” from the Inland Empire Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (2011).
He received a bachelor’s degree from Augustana College, where he became a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, an N.D.E.A. Fellow and a Kendric Babcock Fellow at the University of Illinois, where he was awarded a master’s and Ph.D. degree in political science.
He and Marilyn have three grown sons. The Karnigs live in San Bernardino.
“As I start this last year, let me say as I did at my first convocation. I deeply appreciate your confidence and support,” Karnig said in closing. “I’m proud to serve as your colleague.”
For more information, contact the Cal State San Bernardino Office of Public Affairs at (909) 537-5007 and visit news.csusb.edu.