Robert H. Chambers, who has been president of Western Maryland College since 1984, has decided not to return to that job at the end of his sabbatical in June, the school announced yesterday.
"My presidency at Western Maryland College was the best and most important period of my life," said Chambers in a statement released by the college. He could not be reached for comment.
"I am proud of where the college is today," the statement read. "You can't point to a part of Western Maryland that isn't stronger."
Chambers began his six-month sabbatical from the Westminster school at the beginning of this year, marking 15 years at Western Maryland and his 60th birthday.
Joan Develin Coley, the school's provost, who has been acting president, said many at the school thought he might not return.
"I figured he'd be back, but it was split about half and half," she said. "Sixty was a big milestone for him, and he wanted to take the sabbatical to reflect. One result of that reflection can be to decide to let me do one more different thing with my life before I retire.
"It's great for Bob but difficult for the school, because he was such a good leader. But he has more than paid his dues and wants to move on. You can't blame him for that."
Chambers, who has a bachelor's degree from Duke University, a divinity degree from Yale University and a doctorate in American civilization from Brown University, came to Western Maryland from Bucknell University, where he had been dean of the college of arts and sciences.
The announcement of his departure comes as the college celebrates the completion of a $40 million fund-raising campaign.
Chambers is credited with building programs that have brought a new library and science building to the campus, and the renovations of several of the school's older buildings. He also began a Western Maryland campus in Budapest, Hungary.
"I just can't believe it," said Elizabeth Garraway, president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association. "He is one in a million, a powerful, sensitive human being who brought a real special, unique brand of leadership to that school. We shall miss him sorely."
Chambers was on the association's board for five years.