After 12 successful years as president of Northern Arizona University, John D. Haeger announced today that the lengthy process to search for his successor will begin soon.

“Stepping away from the most important and meaningful work I have ever done will not be easy, but I know this is the time to formally begin the process,” Haeger said. “Northern Arizona University has established itself as an innovative leader at a pivotal point in higher education, and I want to be sure that faculty, staff and students are in the best position to carry that momentum forward.”

Last year, Haeger, who is 70, signed a contract extension that took his term to June 30, 2015. Haeger said that now was an appropriate time to clarify his long-term intentions.

“President Haeger has transformed NAU into an institution anchored in providing an exceptional undergraduate academic experience with complementary research, graduate and distance learning programs that support Arizona’s unique student and economic needs,” said Rick Myers, chair of the Arizona Board of Regents. “NAU’s footprint in Arizona has grown tremendously under President Haeger’s leadership with total enrollment increasing 34 percent during his tenure, the development of new campuses across the state, and the implementation of groundbreaking new approaches to educational delivery.

“NAU, and the entire state of Arizona, shine brighter because of President Haeger’s tireless dedication to advancing student success and higher education. The board looks forward to working with President Haeger to build on that great work through the duration of his contract.”

The announcement comes as the Arizona Board of Regents prepares to establish the search guidelines for NAU’s next president. The topic will be discussed at the Sept. 26-27 board meeting in Flagstaff.

“The pace of change over the past few years has been exhilarating but also demanding,” Haeger said. “It has been a great privilege to serve Northern Arizona University during some of its most challenging and successful times.”

At the same time that NAU withstood a financial crisis, losing $60 million in state funding, the university modernized its infrastructure, grew to record enrollment and continues to set itself apart through innovative approaches to course delivery.

In the midst of budgetary turmoil, Haeger established NAU’s Pledge Program, which locks in tuition for eight semesters for incoming freshmen. The highly popular program has emerged as a point of pride for the university.

“NAU’s commitment to accessible undergraduate education has never wavered, and I have been honored to uphold that commitment,” Haeger said. “Students are choosing NAU in record numbers because they can see the quality and value that we offer. I take great satisfaction in knowing NAU remains a university destination of choice.”

The recent launch of Personalized Learning, which challenges the traditional credit hour while advancing online, competency-based learning, will perpetuate Haeger’s vision in the adoption of technology as a tool to keep costs low while delivering high-quality education to more students with an efficient use of resources.

Haeger said that after his term as president ends, he intends to take a semester-long break before returning to NAU as a University Professor in Higher Education Leadership and Governance.