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University Of Bridgeport Leader Prepares To Retire After Years Of Growth

Neil A. Salonen will step down in spring 2018 from his past as president of the University of Bridgeport.
Neil A. Salonen will step down in spring 2018 from his past as president of the University of Bridgeport. Photo Credit: Contributed

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — After ushering the University of Bridgeport through 17 years of growth, President Neil A. Salonen said Wednesday that he will step down as president on June 30, 2018.

“It has been my great privilege and joy to serve the University of Bridgeport,” Salonen said. “UB has much to be proud of, and as it looks to celebrate its Centennial Anniversary in 2027, much to look forward to.”

Salonen, 72, joined the UB Board of Trustees in 1992, becoming chairman in 1995. In 2000, he was unanimously appointed the school’s ninth president, succeeding Richard L. Rubenstein, who served as president from 1995 to 2000.

Appointed in the midst of an economic crisis during the 1990s, Salonen recalled “rolling up shirt sleeves” and working with trustees, faculty, and other supporters to shore up deficits and steer UB in a new direction.

Under his stewardship, UB more than tripled its revenue, balanced its budget, and established a substantial endowment. Enrollment has climbed to a current 30-year high of nearly 5,700 students.

The campus has evolved, too: In the past decade, UB has invested more than $90 million to reopen and enhance shuttered buildings and cut ribbons to new facilities, including the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business, a nursing school, and University Hall, UB’s newest residence hall.

Collaborative programs, from health clinics to an on-campus resource center for area entrepreneurs, reflect UB’s more than $435 million annual economic impact in Connecticut.

Salonen also pushed the campus to evolve its curriculum with multidisciplinary programs. Its online programs, geared to meet the needs of working and professional students, have been consistently named among the best by U.S. News & World Report.

Students include a record number of Fulbright Scholars as well as recipients of grants and prizes from the U.S. State Department, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health.

Athletics also rebounded. In 2007, UB opened Knights Field. It also increased scholarships and academic support for student-athletes.

“We are all proud of the great accomplishments at UB during Neil’s tenure—more than doubling enrollments, transforming serious budgetary deficits into healthy surpluses, and beginning the true physical renovation and transformation of campus facilities,” said Board of Trustee Co-Chairman Frank N. Zullo, former mayor of Norwalk. “It is difficult to even think of the university without Neil at its helm, with [his wife] Rebecca at his side. We all know that their whole-hearted investment in the campus community has been a big factor in our success.”

Zullo has named Trustee Robert Bercham as chairman of the University’s Presidential Search Committee. It is expected to name a firm to launch a national search as quickly as possible.

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