University provost announces retirement

Written By Dara Collins, Editor-in-Chief

Dr. John H. Pearson, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, announced his retirement at last Monday’s faculty assembly meeting.

Student Government Association President Jake Berlin tweeted the announcement on Monday evening.

“Today at Faculty Assembly, Provost John Pearson announced his retirement,” Berlin’s tweet read. “I am grateful for his academic and philosophical contributions to Point Park-we will miss his wisdom and focus on campus but are lucky to have it for one last year!”

Pearson was appointed in June of 2016, and will remain the university’s provost until May 2021. Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Paylo was a part of the provost search that resulted in the hiring of Pearson.

“He’s an incredible provost, the reason for that is the way that he works with people,” Paylo said. “His ability to work with faculty, staff and students, and the demeanor in which he goes about it has been wonderful in my time in working with him over these past few years.”

Pearson said it was a hard decision when considering an administrative position, but he ultimately wanted to make as many students’ lives easier as he could.

“As a faculty member, I could help the students in front of me that I knew, and that felt great, but as an administrator, I can make some decisions, and make policy decisions especially, that might help thousands of students,” Pearson said.

It’s a collaborative effort from everyone at the university, according to Pearson.

“All the people who are here are here to try to deliver our mission, which is really to deliver the best possible education you can get,” Pearson said.

According to O*NET OnLine, the job title of Provost falls under the occupation of Postsecondary Education Administrator.

Some of the tasks listed with the occupation include development of curricula and recommendation of curricula revisions and additions, appointment of individuals to faculty positions and evaluation of their performance, and preparation of reports on academic or institutional data.

Other core tasks of the occupation include design, use assessments to monitor student learning outcomes and formulate strategic plans for the institution. According to Pearson, the discussion of Point Park’s five-year strategic plan will begin next year before he retires.

Also, during Pearson’s final academic year is the university’s Self-Study Evaluation visit from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

The MSCHE accredits the university “which makes your diploma worth something,” according to Pearson.

In addition to strategic planning and the accreditation visit, Pearson looks forward to supporting faculty on creating new programs, revising programs and creating more opportunities for students in his last year.

“He’s done a lot to move the university forward in every way, especially on the academic side,” Paylo said. “It’s truly his demeanor. He is mentoring, he is tough when he needs to be tough, but yet he is so supportive of new initiatives and programs.”

As May grows closer, Pearson will focus on a smooth transition period.

“Ideally, it really will be me leaving on a Friday and somebody new comes in on Monday,” Pearson said. “Yes, it’s a different face, and they will be a very different person, but the work everyone does will continue smoothly.”

Pearson says it will be a long process to find a new provost. During Pearson’s final 15 months, a search committee will be formed in March, and a consultant will be hired to assist in the search.

Applications will start appearing in the fall, which is typically the season for higher administration positions, according to Pearson. Pearson speculates the committee will invite the finalists on campus in December and January, and the university should hopefully name a new provost by the end of January 2021. The new provost would begin that summer.

“It’s going to be a very thoughtful and thorough process, and the best part about knowing that it’s until May of 2021 is that it gives you enough time to really do that kind of a search so that the next provost at Point Park University will be the right choice,” Paylo said.

Pearson says that he has thought about retirement for a while, but the decision of when to retire was difficult.

“It’s a decision about not just leaving Point Park, but ending a career, which I’ve been doing for well over 30 years now in higher education as a faculty member for most of that time, so it was a hard decision, but it was a decision that my spouse and I made together and we both decided it was the right time for me to do it,” Pearson said.

As Pearson’s retirement inches closer, he wants to remind students to take advantage of every opportunity that shows itself in the present.

“There will never be another time in your life like this time for the students,” Pearson said. “It’s not that this is the best time of your life. Every time you’re in should be the best time of your life. Every decade of my life has been better than the last one, and that’s really true. But this will be unique in your life, and take full advantage of that. I mean really get everything you can out of it because the next thing will be so different, and you won’t be able to come back and do the same thing as the same person.”

When Pearson leaves the university in 2021, he plans to join his husband at their home in Virginia. While his husband continues to work, Pearson says he will not look for another job post-retirement.

“I have a very strong belief that if you retire but go somewhere else to work, that’s probably not as far advanced in your career, that’s just a bad career choice,” Pearson said.

Pearson looks forward to reading, writing and relaxing.

“I think part of it is just to learn how to wake up in the morning without having 50 things in my head as soon as I wake up, and I’ve had that in my head for as long as I can remember really,” Pearson said.

As Pearson transitions to life after work, a new provost will transition to life at Point Park.

“Dr. Pearson took the university to another level and now it will be that person’s responsibility to do it again,” Paylo said.