John G. Eccles, vice president and dean for student development, plans to retire June 30, 2016, after 30 years of service to University of Lynchburg.
Eccles announced his retirement to his student development staff on Tuesday, and LC President Dr. Kenneth R. Garren then shared the news with entire campus community.
“John has influenced the lives of countless LC students over the years, and his commitment to the well-being of our students is nothing short of remarkable,” Dr. Garren said. “I will miss him professionally, but know that he will remain a close friend.”
Explaining his decision to retire, Eccles compared himself to a pilot and his career to an airplane, with his staff as the flight crew and students as passengers. He said his gauges and indicators reveal that now is the right time to land for a smooth transition to new leadership. “I’ve had a great flight,” he said. “I’ve had a grand time, but I think it will be fun to have somebody else fly for a while.”
Eccles came to University of Lynchburg in 1986 as the director of residence life. Eight years later, he became the vice president and dean. As supervisor of the College’s student life programs — including residence life, student activities, campus safety, and construction projects such as the Drysdale Student Center — he helped define and build a community that fosters student growth and supports their academic experiences. He also worked one-on-one to help many students resolve problems and concerns, having a personal impact on many.
He fulfilled all those duties with a characteristic sense of humor that makes him unforgettable to any who have come into contact with him.
The College plans to establish a search committee in October and announce the selection of a new vice president and dean for student development in April. Eccles will assist with the transition to new leadership so the new dean will be ready to assume the position on July 1.
Eccles said that the person who takes his place will have a different personality, set of experiences, and perspective, but will undoubtedly share his priorities. “Our ultimate job is the success of students. That’s really why we’re here,” he said. “It’s not about us. It’s not about money. It’s not about prestige or power or how many people report to us, because none of that matters. What really matters is how are students progressing, how are they reaching their goals, how can I best support them and challenge them in being the best that they can be?”
Eccles said he will miss the daily informal interactions with students and conversations focused on students’ academic interests, challenges, and triumphs. But he and his wife, A.J., who plans to retire from her role as a mathematics instructor, will continue to be a part of the LC community. They plan to support students in athletic competitions, theatre performances, and other events.
“University of Lynchburg has become our family,” Eccles said, reflecting on how his three children grew up at the College. Two of them married LC graduates. Their family members have a total of seven academic degrees from LC. “University of Lynchburg magnified the values that we thought were important in family: care for one another, supporting individuals, challenging them to be something that you think they can be.”
“When I came here, I realized it was a gem,” he said. “That’s why I’ll go no other place. This is home.”