SAVANNAH — Armstrong State University President Linda M. Bleicken announced plans Thursday to retire as the university’s chief executive, effective June 30, after 27 years of service to the university system of Georgia and seven years at the helm at Armstrong.
"I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve as the president of such an important institution for the past seven years," Bleicken said. "Armstrong stands apart as a vibrant, diverse community dedicated to student success and focused on our values of scholarship, leadership and stewardship. I sincerely appreciate the ongoing support of faculty, staff, students, parents and community leaders and hope Armstrong will continue to cultivate generations of future leaders for many years to come."
Bleicken has been appointed to serve as the president of the American Academic Leadership Institute, a national organization dedicated to the development and support of leadership in higher education, beginning in July.
An advocate of student success, Bleicken has served as the president of Armstrong since 2009, when she became the first female president since the institution’s founding in 1935. During her tenure, she has expanded scholarship opportunities for Armstrong students, enhanced the diversity of the student body and connected the university with the surrounding community, founding the Treasure Savannah day of service as well as a number of other initiatives.
"President Bleicken has been an outstanding leader for Armstrong State University," University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby said. "Her strong advocacy for the students has been essential to the success and advancement of Armstrong. On behalf of the Board of Regents, I thank President Bleicken for her dedication to higher education, the University System of Georgia and the many lives of the students, faculty and staff she has positively impacted."
As president, she spearheaded the creation of a strategic plan that reaffirmed Armstrong’s commitment to student success and established key goals for the institution. In addition, she oversaw $100 million for new construction and renovation of existing buildings, including a new Student Union, Windward Commons residential housing, a 12-court tennis complex, the Student Success Center and a LEED Gold-certified Learning Commons.
Under Bleicken’s leadership, Armstrong graduated the largest class in the university’s history in May, with nearly 800 students crossing the stage at the Savannah Civic Center, and promoted the College of Health Professions as the largest producer of undergraduate health professionals in the University System of Georgia. In addition, she helped secure funding and established community partnerships to open a state-of-the-art Armstrong Liberty Center in downtown Hinesville in January, expanding higher education options for students in Liberty County. In 2012, she established the Armstrong Commitment Fund, which provides critical gap funding to help continuing students graduate.
As a result of initiatives that Bleicken directed, Armstrong has earned national attention for increasing retention rates for minority students and for supporting active duty military students as well as veterans on campus. She has also been a major supporter of Savannah Graduates, a community-wide initiative focused on creating a more educated local workforce.
Prior to joining Armstrong, Bleicken served in a variety of roles at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro over 19 years. At Georgia Southern, she served as provost and vice president for academic affairs, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, and associate dean of the College of Business Administration.
Bleicken serves on the board of directors for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, where she represents Georgia and is a member of the legislative team that advocates for national education policy initiatives. She recently completed a four-year term on the NCAA Division II President’s Council.
Originally from Iowa, Bleicken earned a Ph.D. and M.S. in management from Georgia State University in Atlanta, as well as a bachelor’s degree in marketing, magna cum laude, from Georgia State.