President Joseph F. Sheley of California State University (CSU), Stanislaus announced today his intent to retire at the end of the 2015-16 academic year. Sheley was appointed by the CSU Board of Trustees as the campus’ interim president in June 2012 and president in May 2013.

In his communication to the campus community, Sheley said, “My wife, Bernadette, and I are grateful to be part of a community whose members truly care for and support one another. We hope that you share our pride in our institution’s recognition regionally, statewide, and nationally as an exceptional place to learn and work.”

Sheley has worked to build strong ties between CSU Stanislaus and the surrounding community, and consistently advocated for the difference-making role the university plays in the region. During his tenure, CSU Stanislaus gained national recognition as one of America’s best universities in advancing its graduates’ economic mobility and life outcomes — an especially significant achievement given the university’s high percentage of first-generation college students. Money magazine ranked CSU Stanislaus as the number one public university in the nation for helping students exceed expectations, and a study recently commissioned by National Public Radio placed the university as fifth in the nation — behind only Harvard, MIT, Stanford and UC Irvine — in providing upward mobility.

“The CSU is indebted to Joe Sheley for his two decades of leadership, the last four as president of CSU Stanislaus. President Sheley elevated the profile of the university and established CSU Stanislaus as an integral force within the region, stimulating economic development and bolstering college attendance and completion rates,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “I commend him for his personal efforts to advance the educational attainment levels of students, many of whom are the first in their families to graduate from high school and attend a four-year university. The partnerships he has forged and fostered with the community and local school districts will provide the foundation for many generations of students to enjoy increased academic and personal success. I also personally thank Joe for his insight and invaluable contributions to the CSU, as we have worked together to expand opportunities for underserved students and increase degree completion rates.”

Sheley served as a major advocate for improving the entire Central Valley’s economic health through partnerships and bipartisan efforts to increase college access for Valley residents. The Stanislaus Education Partnership, launched last academic year, brought together the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Modesto Junior College and Stanislaus State in an ongoing campaign to improve high school completion rates and increase the number of college degree-holders in the region. Moreover, he also strengthened the university’s presence in the City of Stockton through increased programming at the CSU Stanislaus Stockton Center.

He is also credited with cultivating increased alumni pride and investment in the university. He engaged the community throughout the annual, six-week One Purpose fundraising campaign, which provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships. In fall 2014, he announced the launch of a rebranding initiative, leading and encouraging the development of a new logo and motto, as well as a new, less formal identification for the university: Stanislaus State. Throughout his tenure, he has encouraged faculty and staff to adopt a student (and followed his own advice), saying that the bonds that are formed over a cup of coffee or lunch can change lives.

Through Sheley’s leadership, CSU Stanislaus has also expanded and enhanced its academic program. His passion for effective communication was manifested in the GROW (Greatness Relies on Writing) Project, a website he inspired and guided that includes writing resources, samples, inspirational videos, and essays. “The way to become a better writer is not simply to write more but to write with intention, because every word and punctuation mark matters,” he said in his introduction to the website. “GROW as a writer, and greatness will follow.”

Sheley’s presidency has emphasized the well-being of the entire campus community by emphasizing consultation, transparency, and a shared commitment to effect change. As a result, the campus has displayed leadership in the CSU’s Title IX efforts, physical safety and emotional health campaigns, alcohol awareness education, and crisis communication and response practices.

He has been actively involved in various local organizations and is currently serving as president of the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium and as a member of the governing board of Emanuel Medical Center. He has been awarded numerous grants and has been published extensively in his general area of interest, criminology, and his particular field of expertise, patterns of acquisition and use of firearms by juveniles.

Prior to his service in the CSU, Sheley spent 21 years as a faculty member at Tulane University, where he served as the chair of the Department of Sociology and faculty head of the University Senate.

This spring marks his 20th year as a leader in the CSU. An alumnus of Sacramento State, he returned to the campus in 1996 as the dean of the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. He served as the director of alumni relations, and was named executive vice president before being appointed as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in social science and master’s degree in sociology from Sacramento State. He holds a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The CSU Board of Trustees will soon begin a national search to select a new campus president.