Lonnie A. Burnett, fifth president of the University of Mobile, announced today (Aug. 8) that he will retire at the end of the 2023–2024 academic year. Burnett, who became president of the Christian university in 2019, made the announcement at the conclusion of the opening session of the institution’s annual faculty and staff convocation gathering.
A 1979 graduate of what was then Mobile College, Burnett has spent 45 years working in all levels of education, the last 20 at the university where he has been a professor of history, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and, for the last five years, president.
In making the announcement, Burnett said that, when he became president, he had several goals for the university including providing a quality academic, spiritual and social experience for students; ensure financial stability; increasing faculty/staff salaries; maintaining positive relations with Alabama Baptists; improving facilities and implementing new academic programs. Burnett said he is most proud that these goals have been realized, even while navigating the school through a global pandemic and the resulting disruptions in the national economy and workforce.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve my alma mater in this role,” Burnett said. “The people I have had the good fortune to work with, as well as the exceptional students I had the privilege to teach in my time here, have made this a wonderful experience. I have appreciated the friendship and support of our Board of Trustees, the Alabama Baptist churches, our alumni, faculty and staff.”
‘Vision and clarity’
Terry Harbin, chair of the UM board of trustees, said “Dr. Burnett has brought vision and clarity to the mission of the University of Mobile while adding strength and stability up and down the organization. I know I speak for the entire Board when I say the university has been served extremely well by his time as our president.”
Senior faculty member Ted Mashburn said, “Lonnie is an excellent teacher, careful scholar and sagacious counselor whose motivation for life comes from a deep and abiding love of God, others and the world. This university is a better place because of Dr. Lonnie Burnett.
“One of the really amazing things about Lonnie is that he is a tireless worker, who seldom asks anyone to do anything he hasn’t already done. From overseeing building renovations to developing academic programs to complying with accrediting agencies to simply moving chairs for the graduation ceremony, Lonnie has always been down in the trenches doing the heavy lifting. There is so much admiration I have for Lonnie Burnett,” Mashburn added.
‘Work to be done’
Burnett said there is still much work to be done during his last academic year as president, particularly in completing the university’s SACSCOC 10-year reaffirmation process and launching the university’s new “Experience the Difference” campaign. The campaign celebrates UM’s culture of mentoring, quality academics and vision of “Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.”
Burnett’s last day as president at the University of Mobile will be May 30, 2024.
Harbin said a transition team will be appointed to represent the interests of university faculty, staff and students and announced at the upcoming board meeting in October.