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NM Highlands University president to retire

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — The president of New Mexico Highlands University has announced his retirement after eight years as head of the school.

Jim Fries told the Las Vegas Optic (http://goo.gl/lQTTQm ) that he contemplated retirement for a year. Fries said he will be 72 next summer and he wants to invest more time in activities he enjoys.

His announcement comes less than three weeks after faculty and staff publicly criticized him and his administration at a regents meeting. Faculty accused Fries of not communicating with them and not being transparent about budget decisions, among other things.

“Instead of an atmosphere of leadership, we have an atmosphere of top-down direction with (an) expectation that faculty should just go along with the direction taken by the central administration,” faculty members said in a letter to regents and the administration.

Asked whether that criticism was a factor in his decision to step down prior to his contract expiring, Fries said it wasn’t.

“Most people will assume I’m resigning because of the most recent complaints, and I’m pretty sure nothing I say is going to disabuse some people of that assumption, and that’s too bad,” Fries said. “But it really didn’t. This decision has been building for more than a year. … It’s just time for me to spend more time doing things that I have often forgone.”

Fries and the regents have yet to decide his last day.

His contract was scheduled to expire June 2016.

Regent Frank Marchi said he wasn’t surprised by Fries’ announcement. He said when the board extended the president’s contract, Fries told them he might not want to stay until June 2016.

“He’s done such a good job,” Marchi said. “I’d like to see him stay a little longer certainly, but I respect his decision.”

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Information from: Las Vegas Optic, http://www.lasvegasoptic.com

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