Whittier College president Sharon Herzberger announces her retirement

Whittier College President Sharon Herzberger, who expanded campus diversity and oversaw the school’s largest capital project, announced Monday that she will retire at the end of the next academic year.

“Serving as president of Whittier has been the highest honor of my professional life and there is no doubt that I will miss this college mightily when I leave,” Herzberger wrote in a letter to students, faculty, alumni and staff.

Herzberger, who took the post in 2005, has led Whittier through notable — sometimes difficult — changes. In April, school officials announced, to the shock and anger of students and faculty, that their affiliated law school would be closing. Whittier Law School has been struggling with low student achievement and has been hit by a nationwide decline in law school applicants. It will be the first fully accredited law school in the country to shut down in three decades.

Under Herzberger’s leadership, the liberal arts college, whose most famous alumnus was Richard Nixon, increased its undergraduate enrollment by more than 20%. One of the largest freshman classes in the school’s history will arrive on campus in the fall, bringing total undergraduate enrollment to about 1,650. Herzberger also increased research and fellowship opportunities for undergraduates, rebuilt alumni relationships and pushed for more language study abroad, particularly in Asia. She helped develop numerous Chinese study-exchange programs, including an academic partnership with a university in Xiamen, China. The number of students who study abroad in faculty-led programs had doubled in the time she’s led the college.

She oversaw significant construction on the campus, including a major expansion of the campus center, the renovation of athletic facilities and a move to sustainable landscaping with a “Mediterranean plant palette” featuring the college’s colors, purple and gold. She also oversaw the renovation of Whittier’s Science and Learning Center, now the largest academic building on campus.

Known for her swift walks around campus each morning, Herzberger, 67, said she hopes to spend much of her last year connecting with students and visiting and thanking the many alumni she’s worked with around the country and abroad. She said she looks forward in retirement to spending more time with her husband, David, chair of the Department of Hispanic Studies at UC Riverside, and her sons and granddaughters.

“President Herzberger is unquestionably leaving Whittier College in an excellent position for future generations,” Whittier’s Board of Trustees said in a statement Monday.

The board will begin the search for the school’s next president in the coming weeks.

rosanna.xia@latimes.com

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