When asked about the many improvements and accomplishments at the University of South Alabama (USA) over his seven years at the helm, President Tony Waldrop, Ph.D., gave credit to folks he’s hired along the way.
“It’s because of the leadership team I have around me,” he said. “Collectively, we made those things happen.”
Waldrop announced his retirement Friday, Feb. 12. At the same time, the school’s board of trustees announced a nationwide search will commence to find his replacement. Waldrop will remain in his position until the end of the academic year.
“President Waldrop has accomplished so much during his time at USA that it is almost impossible to catalog his impact on the university,” USA Board of Trustees Chairman Jimmy Shumock said in a statement. “His guiding principle is to put students first, and he has substantially enhanced academics, student life, athletics and facilities, and developed new programs and initiatives that have propelled USA to higher levels of teaching and research. At the same time, he’s overseen advancements and expansions to our healthcare system that make USA Health the premier provider in the region.”
Through his leadership, the school has turned around the financial viability of USA Health. Waldrop said the health care side of the university has gone from losing money to making a profit during his tenure. That’s one of the accomplishments he’s most proud of, Waldrop said.
This is due to the hiring of Dr. John Marymont and Owen Bailey to lead that division of USA, Waldrop said. Now, the system has physicians asking about openings constantly.
USA Health has also expanded during his tenure with the addition of dozens of new doctors, the opening of the Strada Patient Care Center and the dedication of the Fanny Meisler Trauma Center at University Hospital.
The financial improvements at the school, in general, is also something Waldrop is proud of. When Waldrop was hired, the school was dealing with an $8 million deficit in reserves. Now, the school has a surplus of $48 million in that same fund, Waldrop said.
“I grew up with a father who taught me the importance of not spending more than what you’ve got,” he said.
Since Waldrop joined USA in 2014, the university has enrolled the highest-achieving freshman classes in its history and improved academic advising, academic facilities, housing and student life, leading to higher retention and graduation rates. Waldrop launched the Pathway USA partnership with regional community colleges, opened USA’s Honors College and added the new Global USA division to manage international programs. His tenure has been marked by campus enhancements that include a new residence hall, a new student health center, a new simulation program building and a new alumni center.
USA also built an on-campus football stadium during Waldrop’s tenure at the school, although he admits the idea for the facility pre-dates him.
“It had been thought about for many years, including before I got here,” he said. “At first, there was an idea to use tuition dollars to pay for it, [but] I could not support that. I would only support it if it did not take tuition dollars.”
In addition to Hancock-Whitney Stadium, other sports facilities have been added or renovated since Waldrop took over, like the Jaguar Training Center and renovations to the track and field and softball stadiums.
These improvements and others have helped grow the school in the seven years Waldrop has been there. USA’s enrollment is now at 13,000 and has been as high as 16,000 during his tenure.
The graduation rate has also improved, Waldrop said. Overall, Waldrop said he believes he has been successful at USA.
“The way I’ve always looked at a job, if you leave it in a better place than when you got there, you’ve done a good job and you should be proud,” he said.
As for regrets, Waldrop said there are always things folks wish they could’ve done differently in a number of situations.
Waldrop has spent his career in various positions around the country including here in Mobile and in Illinois and North Carolina. The University of North Carolina graduate said it’s now time to follow his wife to her new job at Duke University.
As for his future, Waldrop said he plans to volunteer at his alma mater at the very least.
“Whether they need any help or not is another story,” he said.
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