Whitman Smith, director of admissions at Ole Miss, is retiring from the university.
Smith, whose position has already been placed on the university’s career website, has been with the university for nearly three decades. Smith started in the admissions office in 1990, beginning as a regional admissions counselor and serving as director of admissions since July 2013.
“I think it’s probably time for some new leadership,” Smith said. “There were other factors too, but I just felt like it was time to retire.”
Smith’s retirement comes after the university has experienced an overall decrease in enrollment for two consecutive years, which followed a national trend in decreased college enrollment.
There were 23,780 students enrolled at the university during fall 2017, compared to 23,258 in fall 2018 — a decrease of 2.2 percent, or 522 students. The decline of 1.9 percent from fall 2016 to fall 2017 was the first decline in University of Mississippi enrollment in more than 20 years.
Despite the decreased enrollment the past two years, the university reached the highest enrollment of 24,250 students in its history in 2016 under Smith.
Smith said the decline in enrollment wasn’t a factor in his retirement, and the enrollment would more than likely pick back up in a few years.
“The admissions office is a very, very strong office,” Smith said. “If anything, during the time we’ve lost some students, we’ve done more outreach than we’ve ever done.”
Smith is a fourth generation university employee, whose great-grandfather was the first librarian at the university to hold a degree in the 1920s. He said following that legacy has been “a huge honor.”
“I would be lying if I didn’t say the people were my favorite part of Ole Miss,” Smith said. “To see students I recruited become staff members at the university is special. The people here are what make the university great.”
Smith’s retirement also comes after Jeffrey Vitter resigned as chancellor in January and Melinda Sutton Noss, the university’s dean of students, announced she would be leaving the university at the end of the academic year.