President Alan Merten will retire June 30, 2012. Photo from The Mason Gazette

The Board of Visitors accepted President Alan Merten’s retirement request on Wednesday. Merten’s term, which had been scheduled to go until June 2013, will now end on June 30, 2012.

In a letter to the George Mason University community, President Merten stated that serving his term “has been the greatest privilege of my career.”

The announcement of Merten’s retirement came as somewhat of a surprise. In February 2010, his contract had been renewed for two years, extending his term until June 2013.

Merten has been president of Mason since July 1996, having previously servedas the dean of the Johnson Graduate School of Management of Cornell University and the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University at Florida, amongst other academic and business roles.

In his time as president, Mason has grown in local and international reputation. During his tenure, student enrollment increased from 24,000 in 1996 to over 32,000 today. There has also been a substantial increase in facilities and academic programs.

In a statement that came with the announcement, Rector Lloyd Volgenau said that “One of Dr. Merten’s greatest accomplishments has been to create an environment where highly regarded scholars have come and flourished. Because of his leadership, George Mason University is the place where research in the fields of economics, life sciences, computer technology and bioscience is changing the world.”

Presidential Chief of Staff Tom Hennessey also praised Merten’s leadership, noting that Mason has had two “visionary” leaders for more than 30 years (Merten was preceded by George W. Johnson, who served from 1978–96). Hennessey also said that Merten’s 15-year term was longer than the average at other universities, giving the faculty and staff members a strong sense of continuity.