ABOR announces NAU President Rita Cheng’s decision not to seek contract extension

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ABOR announces NAU President Rita Cheng’s decision not to seek contract extension

September 8, 2020

The Arizona Board of Regents today announced that President Rita Cheng has provided notice of her decision not to seek an extension to her current contract as president of Northern Arizona University.

The board recognizes and appreciates the many accomplishments of President Cheng and supports this personal decision. Cheng’s legacy will include many student-focused successes and an expanded national reputation for NAU.

“The diverse students of NAU have driven me to continue to serve as president of this tremendous institution which has demonstrated great success. Although a difficult decision, after 40 years in higher education, I have decided that it is time to step away from this role,” she said.

A first-generation college and non-traditional student herself, President Cheng was attracted to NAU’s mission of student access and success when she was appointed to serve as NAU’s 16th president in August 2014. “NAU is vital to the local and state economy. I will dedicate my remaining time as president to ensuring our students have many choices to access their NAU education during these challenging COVID-19 times and that NAU continues to be a premier Arizona university.”

On behalf of ABOR, Chair Larry Penley stated “President Cheng will leave as her legacy the creation of a permanent home for Lumberjack Honors students. As well, her leadership means that Arizona will continue to benefit from the expansion of allied health programs and an increase in the number of allied health graduates. Long known for its music program and thanks to the leadership of President Cheng, the Kitt Recital Hall now adds to NAU’s excellence in music education.”

President Cheng is completely committed to ensuring that NAU emerges from this present crisis stronger than ever. Her leadership has meant that the university has confronted what is likely one of the biggest challenges in history, providing a high-quality educational experience during this pandemic. President Cheng lauded NAU’s faculty and staff, stating that “Faculty and staff have contributed greatly to the health and well-being of students and the community as they partnered in a comprehensive effort to make NAU’s educational experience available to students. Said ABOR Chair, Larry Penley, “I want to thank President Cheng along with NAU faculty, staff and students for working with President Cheng during this pandemic.”

The board is expected to commence a comprehensive nation-wide search for President Cheng’s replacement this fall. President Cheng will continue to serve as president until her replacement is found.

Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 | Sarah.K.Harper@azregents.edu