“It is time to do something else. I’ve been in higher education for close to 40 years,” Hite said. “I love working with people, but maybe in terms of management, it’s time for someone younger with more energy.”
Hite stands head and shoulders taller than most people in the community, literally. The former basketball player can often be seen at the school’s various events, from the professional to the personal. December will be a time to not only pack up his office, but also the memories.
Or, as Hite said with a laugh, “Some of the crazy, dumb things people have had me do.”
Staying at Cleveland State for 17 years was not Hite’s plan. Initially, he intended to make his way back to Florida after gaining some presidential experience. According to Hite, the common saying back then was if you wanted to be a president in Florida, you had to leave the state.
Hite got part of the equation right. He just forgot to return. Retirement will allow him to once again visit the balmy state.
“I will probably spend half of my time in Tennessee and half of my time in Florida,” Hite explained. “I am thinking about consulting. I could also teach.”
Cleveland State’s 17-year president is hoping the Tennessee Board of Regents will approve him as President Emeritus. It seems Hite’s later mornings may not necessarily equate to a slower schedule.
Several projects are already simmering on the backburner until December.
“I think Tennessee, or any state, could do a better job of looking at future trends that will shape higher education. My feeling is I can work on that anywhere,” Hite said. “We should be responding to what is happening around us and not dictating what happens around us.”
As Hite talks, he inserts Cleveland State into his answers. The schools accomplishments are his accomplishments. Rewarding memories and hopes for the future parallel the school’s growth and potential.
He said he has read about how difficult other past presidents have found the transition.
“It will be a shock, but I also know I can sleep late in the morning, or I can go on vacation somewhere to travel and not worry about deadlines,” Hite said. “I really don’t like deadlines.”
It might even be nice to just be Carl Hite again, without the title ‘president.’
“A presidency is 24/7. In this community, if I walk outside the door, just like [Lee University President Paul Conn], I am the president whether I want to be the president or not,” Hite said. “There are some folks who do not want that. They want a life outside of their work.”
Hite continually reiterated how great the administration, faculty and staff have been. In spite of the work needed to make Cleveland State a leader in the community, they somehow found a way to have fun.
Like convincing Hite to dress up as Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” character Schroeder for Oktoberfest.
Or decorating Hite’s office in the colors of loud and proud Tennessee Vol orange after a stomping of his Florida Gators.
Hite agreed working as the president of Cleveland State has been enjoyable. He said he never wanted to stay past the point where the positives of the job diminished under the cons.
Some of the positives included being a part of the school’s 17-year growth. Others revolved around personal benefits.
“I think college keeps one young. Half of our population is over 26 and half is under,” Hite said. “College campuses keep people young. I still like to think I am a young 67.”
Continued Hite, “If I live to 100, then I am only two-thirds of the way there.”
According to Hite, the process of finding a new president has already begun. The job description has been written up and will be ready to send out nationally. A committee consisting of students, staff, faculty and board members will be formed. This committee will be in charge of choosing three candidates from the applicant pool. The three chosen will then visit the campus for a final decision.
However, Hite is not out of the president’s office just yet. He said there are still some projects he wants to see to completion at the college.
“We’ve done a lot with workforce development,” Hite explained. “We’ve renovated the technology building. We’ve added a new piece to the technology building.”
These actions occurred in response to the demand from local industries like Wacker and Volkswagen. Reports claim the large companies find it difficult to find qualified workers. One report even gave Tennessee A grade of D-minus in that arena, Hite said.
“We just bought several assessment pieces, costing $250,000, which will allow plant managers and HR folks to measure ability, skills and problem solving,” Hite said. “I would like to see the whole cycle done before I leave in December.”