Goldey-Beacom College trustees select Wirt as next president

July 23, 2014

Dr. Gary L. Wirt was selected as the 13th president of Goldey-Beacom College by its Board of Trustees at their June meeting.

He has been designated president-elect and will succeed Dr. Mohammad Ilyas, who will retire at the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, following 40 years of service and 18 years as president. Wirt is currently the vice president for external affairs with responsibility for development, alumni relations, student affairs, admissions, and public relations.

Wirt first joined the college as an adjunct faculty member in 1973, later earning the rank of professor and receiving the Lindback Excellence in Teaching Award. In 1988, he joined the college full time as dean of students, becoming vice president for student affairs in 1989. From 1997 to the present, he has served as vice president for external affairs and on the executive council of the college. Before joining the college full time, Wirt had an extensive career in mental health and served as the executive director of the Mental Health Association of Delaware.

Wirt is credited with leading the college through three regional accreditation visits and obtaining first-time specialized accreditation from ACBSP and IACBE. He was the architect of the college’s move away from its business-only curriculum to include new degrees in psychology, criminal justice, economics, and English. He led fundraising efforts that resulted in the $4.5 million expansion of the Joseph West Jones College Center, expanded endowed scholarships, and funded campus technology enhancements and a four-fold library growth. He crafted the college’s emergency management plan, and built mechanisms for tracking and recording measures of student satisfaction.

In announcing his appointment, board of trustees Chair E. Thomas Harvey III said, “Gary brings such extensive experience on so many fronts - fundraising, curriculum development, student affairs, and accreditation. He has a strong regional and national perspective on education through his work with the Commission on Higher Education, yet best understands the challenges and opportunities on his own home campus. The board was extremely fortunate to have such a strong internal candidate who can provide a seamless transition in the days ahead.”

In discussing his appointment, Wirt said, “I am excited and honored by the confidence the trustees have placed in me. I will be at the helm of a school that has a growing endowment, decades without a year-end deficit, high student satisfaction, and a full-time faculty with the highest degrees in their field. But, I also understand the many opportunities just within our grasp as an institution. While our graduate programs have the highest enrollment in our history, we must find new ways to open the doors to more undergraduate applicants who find finances difficult. We need to make a renewed effort at bolstering retention. Being at the national average for retention should not be good enough for us; we need to build mechanisms to retain students who can do the work, but who drop out for personal or social reasons. Most important, I want to make sure we further strengthen our tradition of strong student services and a supportive atmosphere - they have been the cornerstones of our 128-year success. One of my first challenges will be to refocus our strategic plan to ensure affordability, personal support, and even stronger retention on the undergraduate level.”

Wirt completed his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, his master's degree in psychology from Washington College, and his doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Sarasota. He completed the Educational Leadership Certificate Program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. He is a published author on the effects of long-term psychiatric care in institutions.

Wirt currently serves as a commissioner and vice chairman of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the body which accredits colleges and universities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, in the Caribbean, and overseas. He is a trustee of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and a founding member and vice chair of the Delaware Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. He was appointed by four governors to serve on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health, and served as chair of the Delaware Psychiatric Center Advisory Board. He is a resident of Old New Castle and Rehoboth Beach.

Founded in 1886, the college offers graduate and undergraduate degrees with majors in psychology, economics, criminal justice, English, and all areas of business. With students from 26 states and 66 nations, Goldey-Beacom College is in Pike Creek Valley, a suburb of Wilmington. The college is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the Accreditation Council of Business Schools and Programs, and the International Assembly of Collegiate Business Education.