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UPG president to retire

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 7:52 a.m.

The president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg will step down from his post next summer -- 10 years after taking the helm at the campus.

Frank A. Cassell has announced his intention to retire effective June 30, 2007.

"It's just been a great time, and my feeling is that the place has just blossomed, and I'm very proud of what the faculty and staff and the alumni and our advisory board have been able to achieve in these 10 years," Cassell said Friday.

In recent months, Cassell said he had been considering several possibilities, including a job as chancellor of a University of Minnesota branch campus.

He decided to withdraw as one of four finalists for that job and said he and his wife began looking at starting "a new stage in our lives."

"The decision really is driven mainly by age, and I think a feeling that I feel very good about what I've done here," said the 65-year-old Cassell. "I feel it's always better to leave a job when things are going very well than to wait until it all falls apart."

Under Cassell's leadership, enrollment grew from 1,150 to 1,700 students. Thirteen buildings were constructed or renovated. Laboratories and technology were upgraded -- much of the time with private funding.

"During Dr. Cassell's tenure as its president, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg has advanced on every front," Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said in a statement issued by the university. "Its academic programs are stronger, its student life is richer, and its campus is more attractive.

"He also has been an exceptional civic leader who has built bridges to the community that should last for many years to come," Nordenberg said.

Pitt will form a search committee to find Cassell's replacement by next spring.

Mary Beth Spore worked closely with Cassell as his assistant for six years. On July 1, she moved to nearby St. Vincent College to become dean of social sciences, communication and education.

She said Cassell encouraged her in her career.

"I think he's a stand-out person for his generosity of spirit and for encouraging people," Spore said.

Spore said Cassell, who came from the Midwest, became deeply involved in the community.

Under his leadership, both the Smart Growth Partnership, which encourages debate on development while maintaining a quality of life, and Westmoreland Heritage, which promotes historical tourism, were formed on campus.

"The benefit to Pitt-Greensburg was people began associating a rich academic life with Pitt-Greensburg," Spore said. "So we got a president who did things not only for us but for the greater community."

Alex Graziani, executive director of Smart Growth, said Cassell has been "an outstanding boss."

"He really has a vision for how do we add and give back to the community even more," Graziani said.

Under Cassell, the campus began the Academic Villages program, which offers students a chance to live in residence halls with others in the same academic fields. The villages also offer programs to all students with similar academic interests.

New buildings were added to make the villages a reality.

"I think the physical plant has developed in important ways. It's not only beautiful but it supports a much greater range of activities, of academic programming, of student life programming," Cassell said.

Cassell also encouraged students to study abroad, even raising funds so they could do so.

"I think I've been privileged to be part of seeing an institution so dramatically change itself," he said.

Cassell said he has no particular plans for retirement, although he's looking forward to spending time with his children and grandchildren, who reside in various areas of the country. He also wants to continue his community involvement.

"I think like a lot of people, we'd like to be somewhere warm in the winter, but other than that, I don't think we have anything in mind," Cassell said.

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