Ending a nearly 50-year career in education, Cal State Bakersfield President Horace Mitchell announced during a campus welcome-back event Thursday that he would be retiring at the end of the academic year.

The decision has been a closely guarded secret, CSUB spokesman Michael Lukens said, explaining that staff members and even Mitchell's children weren't tipped off until Thursday morning prior to the announcement for fear of the news getting leaked on social media. 

Mitchell, 72, has been at CSUB for 13 years, twice as long as the average tenure among CSU presidents. During his time, he has led the university to its highest graduation and enrollment rates of all time, spearheaded a transition to a NCAA Title I athletics program and moved the university from a quarter-based system to a semester-based academic calendar.

“While I have been contemplating this decision for some time, there are no particular precipitating circumstances that have led me to make this decision now. One of my former colleagues once said, ‘Being a university president is an ‘infinity’ job. At any point in time, there are always many more things to be accomplished.’ I agree with that statement. The job of being president of CSU Bakersfield will never end. However; I am now prepared to pass the torch of leadership to my immediate successor,” Mitchell said Thursday morning.

The CSU system will begin searching for a replacement for Mitchell this fall. His final day will be June 30, 2018.

"President Mitchell has made a significant impact on CSU Bakersfield… indeed the entire Cal State system. His dedication to students and community coupled with his tireless efforts have led the university to a higher level of academic success and community engagement," said California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White. "His focus on academic excellence and on life-changing educational opportunities for students from all backgrounds has contributed to CSUB's emergence. His legacy at CSUB will be felt for generations to come."

Mitchell’s educational career began in 1968 at his alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, assistant professor of Education and Black Studies , and chair of the Black Studies Program.

Mitchell then spent 17 years at the University of California, Irvine, serving in several faculty and management positions.

He came to CSUB as president in 2004, after serving as vice chancellor of business and administrative services at UC Berkeley.

He led the Bakersfield campus during a time of rapid growth and development.

Mitchell and his wife, Barbara, another career educator, have been married for more than 38 years. They have three adult children and five grandchildren.

His wife’s retirement status played into his decision, he told crowd members Thursday.

“[Barbara] notes she cannot fully retire until I retire due to her ongoing First Lady responsibilities,” he joked. ”While she has left this decision entirely up to me, I know that she, too, is ready to retire.”

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce