After 31 years at GW, Dean of Students Linda Donnels announced last week that she will retire at the end of the academic year.
Donnels, who began working at GW in 1979, oversees major departments ranging from Student Judicial Services to GW Housing Programs. She has her hands in a variety of aspects of student life; Donnels sat on the task force on swine flu and led the review on Laura Treanor’s death in 2009. Over her career, she has helped oversee crisis situations at GW, including helping students displaced by Hurricane Katrina acquire housing in 2005. In 2004, she also authored a report about the University’s response to a slew of student deaths on campus.
Donnels is one of 13 high-level administrators to leave or announce plans to leave their posts since University President Steven Knapp took office in August 2007, including five vice presidents, four deans and the University Police Chief.
Donnels, who said she will move to Santa Fe for her retirement, said the decision to retire was difficult.
“It was with a lot of thought and soul searching, because I’ve really had a wonderful career at GW,” Donnels said. “It’s very hard to leave here. Obviously for somebody to stay as long as I have, there is a reason why I stay. I really enjoy working here very much.”
Donnels’ colleagues say she is leaving big shoes to fill, adding that she will be impossible to replace.
“I’m already feeling the loss and the void because I do work so closely with her,” said Johnnie Osborne, associate vice president and chief financial officer for SASS. Osborne has worked at GW for 35 years, four more years than Donnels. “Personally I feel it and professionally the division is really going to miss her leadership.”
Director of GW Housing Programs Seth Weinshel works closely with Donnels and echoed Osbourne’s belief that Donnels will be difficult to replace.
“Linda has been such a great role model for me in my career,” Weinshel said. “I’m going to miss her insight, wisdom and knowledge of GW. Shes been a pleasure to work with really, and I’ll miss that about her.”
Since beginning her career at GW, Donnels said she has seen a lot change at the University.
“Well when I started, GW was very much a regional university,” Donnels said. “Over time, it has become a national and international university, and that was done strategically and successfully, which is a huge change.”
Donnels said she is finishing out the semester, but does not yet know when her final day at GW will be or how the transition will work. She said she hopes to stay connected to the University after she leaves.
“I hope it’s not goodbye to GW because I hope to stay connected to all my friends here,” Donnels said.
She added, “I hope friends and students will stay connected to me even though I’m not in D.C.”