With a nod to the college's triumphs and tragedies during his 13-year tenure, Northern Illinois University President John Peters announced his retirement Thursday.
Peters will leave the university at the end of the school year, he announced during his annual address on the state of the university.
"I feel we've experienced an entire lifetime together," the 67-year-old Peters said. "But a university presidency isn't a lifetime appointment."
Peters was lauded for his leadership in the wake of a deadly classroom shooting spree in 2008 that claimed the lives of five students and injured almost two dozen more.
"I'm ... sad for the university," said Joe Dubowski, a Carol Stream resident whose 20-year-old daughter Gayle died in the shooting. "He's had really good vision for the university and he had his pulse on the changing landscape of higher education in the state and built a lot of deep relationships across the board throughout the country. I think very highly of the man."
The shooting wasn't the only crisis Peters had to deal with during his presidency. In October 2010, freshman Toni Keller was raped and murdered; her badly burned body was recovered in a park near the campus. A DeKalb man was charged in connection with her death and is awaiting trial.
Peters took the reins at NIU in 2000, after leaving a post as provost and chief operating officer at the University of Tennessee. He was also a professor and administrator at the University of Nebraska for 20 years.
The campus has undergone several construction and renovation projects during Peters' time as president, much of which was fueled through an aggressive capital improvement fundraising campaign that netted the university more than $163 million. Peters noted that much of this was done as NIU and other Illinois universities struggled with funding from traditional sources.
"Despite all of this, NIU thrives," he said. "We have learned to do more with less, to stretch dollars further and to overcome obstacles."
Peters also touted the success of the school's staff and students. The university was at the forefront of Internet technology during the past decade, leading a development of broadband networks throughout the area.
"We have about 65 new faculty members this fall," Peters said. "Meeting them and listening to their excitement, hopes and aspirations for NIU and our students left me with confidence and enthusiasm for this great university's future."
Peters said he has been considering retirement for the past few months after discussing his future plans with his wife and son.
"This is the time for me to pass the torch to another who will carry out the noble mission of leading this great university," he said. "The board will direct that NIU launch a national search for my replacement, one that I believe will attract candidates of the highest credentials."
Peters expects a search firm to be in place by early November.