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ESU Announces Upcoming Retirements, Promotions in Key Roles

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Two longtime Emporia State University leaders are planning their retirements with succession plans now in place.

When Kevin Johnson, ESU general counsel since 2012, begins phased retirement on July 1, Steven Lovett, associate general counsel for academic affairs, will move into the General Counsel role. Johnson will become senior counsel for special projects until he fully retires in December 2024.

This succession plan was created a year ago when Lovett moved into the new role as associate general counsel.

“Advance planning for transitions in key leadership roles ensures that Emporia State University continues with forward momentum,” said ESU President Ken Hush. “Kevin and Steve have worked closely together during this past year, and I know the change will be seamless.”

In fact, said Lovett, he and Johnson benefitted from their long relationship that began as faculty members in ESU’s School of Business.

“The truth is,” Lovett explained, “Kevin and I have had a brilliant working and personal relationship for the past nine years, making my decision to eventually step into the general counsel role an easy one. Since he became general counsel in 2012, Kevin has worked hard to cultivate cross-campus relationships, building trust, rapport and working partnerships, setting a high standard for me to follow. I hope my own experiences at ESU will help me successfully build on all he’s been able to accomplish.”

Lovett joined Emporia State in 2014 as an assistant professor. Prior to that, he worked in private practice, representing a wide variety of corporate clients and public agencies. In 2020, he earned tenure and promotion to associate professor. During his nine years on campus, Lovett has served as chair of the General Education Council, as president of the faculty and in a number of other school and university roles and service committees.

Before joining the School of Business faculty in 1999, Johnson practiced law in Wichita. He had a general practice from 1981 until the early 1990s when he began focusing on business representation. During his time at ESU, Johnson served as president of the faculty and director of the Kansas Business Hall of Fame. He has served on the Student Learning (Assessment) Committee, Tuition and Budget Committee and Ethics Committee, and many other service committees.

“Kevin’s legal experience and his all-out commitment to ESU’s success has been what our university has needed, especially during a period of so many changes in higher education and the unique challenges we have faced as a regional institution,” Lovett said. “I’m inheriting an incredible legacy of teamwork and service, one that I’m proud to do my best to continue.”

In Academic Affairs, another key change is coming. Dr. Gary Wyatt recently announced his plan to retire at the end of the 2023-24 academic year, which will be in one year. Wyatt currently serves as associate provost and dean of the Honors College. To create a seamless transition, Dr. Mary Shivley, a faculty member in the Honors College since 2018, will become associate dean of the Honors College in August.

“Given the challenges that face higher education today,” said Wyatt, “I have felt for quite some time that when I am able, it will be time to step down to make space for a younger member of the Hornet Nation to step up and have the amazing experiences that I have had.”

An ESU alum, Shivley holds both a bachelor’s degree in communication (2001) and master’s degree in counselor education (2004) from Emporia State and earned her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Baker University in 2016.

She has worked at ESU since 2001 as an admissions counselor, assistant director for student involvement, director of leadership and director of advancement communications until she became an assistant professor of education for Baker University in 2018, the same year she joined the ESU Honors College faculty.

“Dr. Mary Shivley is uniquely qualified to serve as associate dean of the Honors College and then hopefully lead it after my retirement,” said Wyatt. “She is deeply dedicated to the teaching and practice of adaptive leadership as it aligns with the Kansas Leadership Center Framework, she has considerable experience working with Honors College and other students, she is deeply connected to the university and community. She is energetic, intelligent, and very creative. Her character and dedication will take the Honors College to the next level, and I am proud to work with her during my final year.”

The admiration is mutual, according to Shivley.

“Gary’s vision and forward-thinking have propelled our Honors College into a unique learning experience for our high-achieving students to learn adaptive leadership skills as they serve our community to help make change for the common good,” Shivley said. “I am thankful for his mentorship and am honored to have the opportunity to build on his legacy in the future.”

Wyatt will retire after spending his entire professional career in Hornet Nation. He came to Emporia State in 1988 as a faculty member to teach sociology. In June 2014, he led the transition from an honors program to an Honors College for ESU. He has served as dean of the Honors College ever since. During his 36 years at ESU, Wyatt has served on Faculty Senate, including a term as president of the faculty, as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for six years as well as stints as interim provost and interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences during times of transition.

“Because of the amazing students I work with each day, the Honors College dean position which I have held for the past 10 years is the most joyful, inspiring, and invigorating job anywhere.” Wyatt said. “Anyone who doubts the future of our nation and the world, needs only to spend a few days working with me, when they see how outstanding these students are will know that we have nothing to worry about.”