Nearly two years ago, Carlow University president Mary Hines began talking about whether to retire when her contract expires at the end of July this year.
Her decision to retire after eight years as president was made last summer when she spent a week at a rented oceanfront house at Ocean City, N.J., with her four grown children and two grandchildren.
"We began to realize what we had sacrificed over such a long period of time," said Ms. Hines, who plans to move to Baltimore, where the New York City native lived and worked for 27 years and where she can be near family members.
Her son, Kevin, who has special needs and resides with Achieva here, will go to Baltimore with her.
Her decision to retire was announced publicly last week.
"I am very much at peace and relieved that now my decision and planning for the next president is in the public phase," she said in a phone interview.
The university has selected a search committee and a search firm.
Ms. Hines is old enough that she might have retired even before the Carlow job. She is 75 and has worked 55 years in education, 43 of them in higher education.
When Carlow selected her to be the Catholic school's first lay president in 2005, she had been chancellor/campus executive officer of Penn State Wilkes-Barre since 1997.
"My husband and I expected we would retire from Penn State, and then Carlow called," she said. "My husband agreed this was an opportunity we couldn't miss. It was a great institution."
Kenneth Hines died about three years ago, and the family established the Kenneth D. Hines Memorial Endowment for Ethics in the Professions, which became fully endowed in the fall and provides funds for continuing education.
In making her announcement to the university community, she said the endowment is "an enduring testimony to the courage and passion of the person most responsible for my coming to Carlow."
After his death, her family encouraged her to come home, but she said, "I told them ... that it wasn't the right time. I still had promises to keep, and I would do that, but at the end of my contract I would rejoin them."
With the approaching conclusion to her contract, she said, "I feel I have kept my promises to Carlow."
In her remarks to the university community, she said keeping those promises came at "great personal cost but with greater professional satisfaction."
Ms. Hines was reluctant to give her age when she arrived at Carlow, but in an email last week she noted, "The best work and greatest successes of my career have been achieved in my 60s and 70s, as is the case with many professionals who, blessed with good health of mind and body, continue to be productive leaders and wise change agents in their organizations ... when given the opportunity."
One of the challenges as she started her job was Carlow had just changed from being a college to a university in 2004.
"The board's charge to me was to bring it to the fullness of a university. I'm proud we have done that," Ms. Hines said.
As a university, Carlow offers more graduate programs, more faculty research and more research opportunities for undergraduates.
"The students are achieving a level of education they would not have gotten if we didn't have the resources of being a university," she said.
During her tenure, graduate school enrollment more than doubled; undergraduate academic programs in social work and nursing won maximum accreditation; the number of full-time faculty doubled; and endowment increased its market value by six times.
Carlow has 2,346 students, including 1,446 undergraduates and 900 graduate students.
"I know the institution is well positioned for the 10th president to take it to a new level," she said.
Last fall, Ms. Hines discussed an unanticipated budget deficit of about $700,000 in 2011-12 that had to be addressed.
At the time, she said, "We're a human institution. People do the best they can to plan and to execute, and sometimes things get overlooked."
She said that situation had nothing to do with her retirement.
George Pry, chair of Carlow's board of trustees, said in a phone interview the situation was "absolutely not, not even remotely" related to the budget deficit.
"I can't say enough good about Mary. She's been a wonderful leader," he said.
"Mary was the right person at the right time. It was a college, and she basically took that to a university status."
Ms. Hines serves on a long list of boards of civic and educational organizations.
She said she did not accept any paid board positions but did join nonprofit boards that were in keeping with Carlow's mission, which embodies the values of the Sisters of Mercy.
Aside from her presidency, perhaps her highest public profile position came when she took her turn as chair of the presidents' council of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education.
She helped lead the charge as the presidents battled Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's unsuccessful attempt to levy a $16 million annual tax for tuition on students in 2009.
"I'm very proud of the way the PCHE presidents collaborated and supported and respected each other and spoke with one voice and argued from a position of justice," she said.
All of her college degrees are in philosophy, including a doctorate and a master's degree from Catholic University of America and a bachelor's degree from St. Francis College in New York.
"I think being a philosopher has been a great advantage to me in my presidency, she said.
"My decision making has always been characterized by what I believe are intellectual values and moral values."
Ms. Hines is not the typical American college president -- who is a 61-year-old white male and holds a doctorate in education -- but her service is close to the seven-year average tenure of current college presidents noted in an American Council on Education study.
"I think higher education right now is at a place nationally where it's hard to be a president, period," she said.
For Carlow, she said the economic downturn has been particularly challenging because 55 percent of its students have family incomes low enough to qualify for federal Pell grants.
"We bite our nails to get through the budget every year. We don't give significant raises to our faculty and staff. We rely on their commitment to the mission and the satisfaction of serving these kinds of students who have economic need and high intellectual potential," she said.
Ms. Hines isn't retiring until the end of July and has outstanding projects she wants pursue until then.
They include more fundraising, final plans for an accreditation visit at the School of Management and celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the campus school and the 80th anniversary of the first graduating class at Carlow, then known as Mount Mercy.
She will be savoring the moments at Carlow and in the Pittsburgh area.
From the high perch of her townhouse in Harmar, she has a view of the Allegheny River and nearby communities.
On the day her retirement became public, she said, "The sunrise this morning was so spectacular, I had a second cup of coffee."
Education writer Eleanor Chute: email@example.com or 412-263-1955.