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Brenau University President Ed Schrader retiring in 2019
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Dr. Ed Schrader, president of Brenau University, poses for a portrait in his office in Gainesville, on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

Brenau University President Ed Schrader on Tuesday, Aug. 21, announced his intention to retire in 2019 after 15 years leading the Gainesville-based university.

“When you’ve had a good time and sort of accomplished the things you have set out to do, you don’t want to let go,” he told The Times.

Though Schrader and his wife will not be leaving Gainesville, he said that at 67 years old, it’s time to begin stepping back.

“When I actually step away … I want to have time while my health is still good to enjoy retirement,” he said. “As everybody says, and it becomes true when it hits you in the face, I want to see my grandkids while they’re still kids.”

Brenau has hired a firm to help conduct a national search for the next university president, with plans to have a new president in place by July 2019.

Schrader plans to assist in this transition through the end of 2019 and then take a one-year sabbatical beginning in January 2020 – after which he will remain as a consultant for five years.

“If (the search) ran long, I would just stay on until we found the right person,” Schrader said.

Under Schrader’s leadership, the university’s budget has nearly tripled to $65 million while its endowment has increased to more than $51 million from $26.3 million.

Meanwhile, student enrollment has nearly doubled to 4,000 and the university’s 6,500-piece art collection has grown to an estimated value of $8.3 million.

The university has launched three doctoral programs during Schrader’s tenure (nursing practice, occupational therapy and physical therapy) and in 2019 it will add a doctorate of education program.

Brenau has also added campuses in Fairburn, Norcross, Augusta and Jacksonville, Fla., since Schrader joined the university.

“Dr. Schrader told me early on in his tenure that he would champion the causes of the Women’s College, and he has done so in both word and deed,” Debra Dobkins, dean of Brenau’s Women’s College, said in a press release. “This signature component of Brenau University is stronger today because of his visionary leadership.”

With the school in a solid financial position, new infrastructure and academic programs added, including a growing international program with partner schools in China, Schrader said he feels comfortable leaving Brenau in the hands of a new leader.

“We didn’t want to leave any surprises or obstacles for the new (president) to have to address,” he added.

When he returns from sabbatical, Schrader said his consulting role would likely be focused on supporting the university's international programs, which require a lot of relationship-building.

He said he’ll also be involved in helping recruit other administrative leaders to Brenau.

“The idea is to be supportive … and help raise money,” Schrader said.

But, Schrader joked, “If the (new) president wants me to go home, I will.”

“As trustees we knew this day would come, and in typical fashion, Dr. Schrader insisted that we were ready to begin this transition,” Pete Miller, chairman of the 30-member Brenau University Board of Trustees, said in a press release. “We know that thoughtful succession planning is a hallmark of strong institutions, and we are confident that we have established a path and a process that will ensure that we find the right person to lead the university into its next chapter and that the university will continue to function at the highest level during this time of transition.”

Schrader expressed gratitude to his colleagues, faculty, students and community for allowing him to serve Brenau.

“This is a great school,” he said. “It’s also a great community.”

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