Ellis Arnold, president of Hendrix College, will retire in June of next year, the school announced Tuesday.
Arnold, 65, has been the first alumnus to lead the private liberal arts college since Marshall T. Steel did so from 1958-69.
The college on Tuesday announced that a national search for its next president will begin at the start of the upcoming academic year. Arnold replaced William "Bill" Tsutsui, president of the Conway campus from 2013-19.
A 1979 graduate, Arnold has worked for about 20 combined years at his alma mater in various leadership roles, and he's been the college's president since the last day of 2019.
Arnold, in a statement to the Democrat-Gazette, referred to planning for the college's future in describing the timing of his departure.
"While this decision has been difficult, the time feels right, and the months between now and next summer will allow the College space for transition planning," said Arnold. "I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to lead the institution that has shaped my life in so many ways."
Jo Ann Biggs, chairperson of the Hendrix College Board of Trustees, in a statement described Arnold as having a "tireless optimism" and "deep love for the enduring reputation and traditions" of the school, which this past fall enrolled 1,120 students, according to state data.
"The Hendrix community is deeply grateful to Ellis for his service to the college and the progress achieved during his tenure as president," Biggs said.
A spokeswoman for the college said Arnold wasn't available Tuesday for a phone interview.
In his statement, Arnold referred to the college's fundraising campaign goal to raise $150 million -- earlier this year, the college said it counted $146 in gifts and pledges already made -- as well as "the next period of strategic planning" for the Conway campus.
"As I considered these matters, I reached the conclusion that it would be in the best interest of the College to begin the process to have a new President in place to begin the 2023-2024 academic year," Arnold said.
Arnold, in his statement, said he wants to remain "active in retirement" but does "not plan to seek another leadership position at another college or university."
Tsutsui's departure in 2019 was announced by the college as a retirement, but last year he was named president of Ottawa University, which has campuses in Kansas and Arizona.
Arnold, after earning a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and working as a lawyer, first returned to work at the college in 1990, serving as vice president for development and college relations.
This started a career in education that would include about eight years as president of Lambuth University in Tennessee.
He served from 2004-08 as president and head of school for Pulaski Academy, a private school in Little Rock, then returned to Hendrix College in 2008 as executive vice president. Before being named president in 2019, Arnold had twice served as acting leader of the campus.
Arnold has led Hendrix College during the pandemic and overseen efforts to try to reduce the spread of covid-19.
Colleges and universities throughout Arkansas switched to online classes when the coronavirus first emerged.
When public universities in Arkansas began fall 2020 with a mix of in-person and online classes, Hendrix College opted to stay fully online. The college resumed in-person classes with hybrid options in spring 2020.