LMU’s Hess to retire at year’s end

Published 4:51 pm Monday, September 11, 2023

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Lincoln Memorial University President Clayton Hess, Ph.D., has announced plans to retire at the end of the calendar year. Senior Executive Vice President Jason McConnell will serve as interim president beginning on January 1, 2024, and a national search will follow.

Hess has been a member of the LMU faculty and staff since 1981 when he began a 42-year career shortly after he graduated, Hess has served in varied roles throughout his tenure culminating with his appointment as the University’s 21st president on July 1, 2017. His inauguration followed in October 2017.

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“Dr. Clayton Hess has been a tremendously loyal servant of his alma mater,” LMU Chairman Autry O.V.  “Pete” DeBusk said. “His contributions are numerous, especially in the areas of accreditation and program development. The board recognizes his service and wishes him well in retirement.”

Prior to his presidency, Hess served as LMU’s provost from 2015 to 2017 and the vice president for academic affairs from 2010-2015. He also has served as assistant vice president for academic affairs for planning and accreditation; director of institutional research; effectiveness and accreditation; director of institutional research; director of institutional advancement; director of career planning and placement; director of testing; and assistant director of admissions during his time at LMU.

Much of his tenure at LMU has been dedicated to pursuing and maintaining institutional and programmatic accreditation. Hess chaired the University’s successful Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) reaffirmation of accreditation from 2006-2009 and oversaw LMU’s latest 10-year reaffirmation process in 2019. Hess has guided LMU’s growth at all levels, chairing committees to initiate new extended learning sites and degree-level accreditation changes that would pave the way for LMU’s meteoric expansion into professional schools since 2007.

Hess was a member of the 2016-2017 SACSCOC Principles Review Committee, charged with reviewing and recommending changes to SACSCOC accreditation standards and processes. He has presented numerous sessions and talks at professional association meetings. He has also served on American Bar Association (ABA) Sabbatical Site Teams. He has been inducted in the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Institution Association (TICUA) Hall of Fame and has been recognized serval times by SACSCOC for his service, including receiving the Demetria N. Gibbs Outstanding Chair Award in 2020.

“After more than 42 years of service to LMU, I am ready to spend more time focusing on my family, especially my grandchildren, and other business and professional interests,” Hess said. “I have greatly enjoyed my time at LMU and working with so many wonderful and supportive people. LMU is a great institution and I was fortunate to play a part in its success.”

Hess earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and two master’s degrees from LMU and a PhD in human services counseling from Walden University. Hess has four grown children and six grandchildren.