Northwood University chief to retire after 12 years; successor search under way

UPDATED: 10/18/2016 16:39 ET – adds details

Northwood University, a years-long training hub in Michigan for managers and managers of car dealers, said the president and CEO will be in charge after 12 years.

Keith Pretty, 67, announced Wednesday plans to retire from the private university in Midland, Michigan, on June 30, according to a press release from the school.

As the third president of Northwood, Pretty's tenure was marked by expansion of the campus at his home base, as well as philanthropic and stock market growth. The total enrollment is 3,545 students, and it is present at different locations in Michigan – Troy, Livonia, Grand Rapids and East Lansing – along with Cedar Hill, Texas.

"Northwood University is a special place and I am proud to have had the opportunity to serve this vibrant community of current and future leaders," said Pretty in the release.

The university is preparing a private investigation for its new leader who will be open only to the board of administrators and faculty members. It is run by the Illinois-based search company Witt / Kieffer Inc.

Mackenzie Kastl, director of public relations for the university, said that the closed search means that students do not know who the next president is until he or she is elected. The next leader will be appointed immediately after the departure of Pretty next summer.

"Releasing the names of candidates, even in the finalist phase, can prevent highly qualified candidates from taking advantage of the opportunity," said Al Zehnder, chairman of the board and head of the internal search committee. "We believe this approach is in the interests of the university and will enable us to draw the level of president we are looking for."

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Reducing footprint

Northwood's footprint shrank considerably during Pretty's tenure. Partly because of poor financial results, the company closed its residential campus in Dallas in 2014 before it sold its 31-year campus in West Palm Beach, Florida, to Keizer University in 2015. At that time, the university was restructuring its activities to improve sales. .

Now Northwood operates from a single residential campus in Midland.

Prior to his role with Northwood, Pretty served as President and CEO of Walsh College, Detroit in the Suburbs and Vice President for External Affairs and General Counsel at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo for a period of 12 years. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Detroit Economic Club.

Hannah Lutz contributed to this report.