BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — After more than a decade of service, the first female president of West Virginia Wesleyan College announced Thursday she plans to retire in December.
Dr. Pamela Balch is a 1971 graduate of Wesleyan and is the 18th president of the institution.
She has served as president of the United Methodist Church-related school for the past 10 1/2 years.
“Pam has served her alma mater with distinction and will be remembered for the incredible job she has done transforming the college,” said Marc Halbritter, chair of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees. “Thanks to her leadership, the College is thriving. She has accomplished the goal she established upon her arrival – moving Wesleyan from ‘good to great.'”
Balch adopted a growth strategy upon her arrival, adding athletic and co-curricular programs, while placing detailed emphasis on expense management.
She was instrumental in directing resources to dramatically enhance the school’s picturesque campus.
The college also invested considerable time in reviewing its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to build a comprehensive strategic plan to successfully fulfill Wesleyan’s mission, according to Rochelle Long, director of marketing and public relations.
Balch told The Inter-Mountain the decision to retire was not an easy one to reach.
“I told the board today that I’ve given it a lot of thought. It’s been a tough decision. I feel like I really want to go out having accomplished what I set out to accomplish,” she said.
And Balch gave plenty of notice in order to ensure there is time to find her replacement for a smooth transition.
“I gave them almost a full year to hire the best person with plenty of time. It’s a great school right now and should attract lots of good candidates. It’s a sweet gig,” she said.
Balch’s presidency began with the reestablishment of the nursing and physics programs, both of which have contributed significantly to Wesleyan’s undergraduate enrollment growth, and the addition of graduate programs in athletic training, education, English creative writing and nursing.
In addition to increasing enrollment and eliminating cumulative deficits, Balch’s accomplishments are numerous. She oversaw the construction of debt-free facilities such as the Virginia Thomas Law Center for the Performing Arts, the David E. Reemsnyder Research Center, the Bruce and Jeannie O’Roark Nordstrom Welcome Center, the fire escape for Agnes Howard Hall, and a fountain and green space in front of Wesley Chapel.
Additionally, Balch orchestrated the replacement of roofs for Agnes Howard Hall, McCuskey Hall, the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library and Wesley Chapel, and oversaw renovations and improvements to many athletic facilities. The Thomas H. Albinson II School of Business was established during her tenure, and Wesleyan also added Dunn Residence Hall, a new Wellness Center in Jenkins Hall, and renovated Fleming and Doney Residence Halls.
In September 2014, Wesleyan was awarded a $10 million Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education through the Strengthening Institutions Program. Wesleyan was one of two schools to receive $10 million, which was the largest grant ever awarded by the Department of Education. The grant provides support to renovate academic classrooms and laboratories, program resources to help students persist and graduate, and a challenge match to increase the endowment by $4 million.
Wesleyan also publicly launched a $30 million “Enhancing Our Tradition, Empowering Our Future” Capital Campaign in October and has already secured nearly $25 million toward the campaign goal. In addition to renovating classrooms and buildings and adding new facilities, campaign gifts have resulted in the addition of more than 25 new endowed scholarships and the investment of more than $250,000 in new science equipment. More than 5,000 alumni and friends have contributed to the campaign to date and the campaign has dramatically increased the number of annual major donors and planned gift commitments.
“When President Balch arrived, Wesleyan had several million dollars in accumulated deficits,” Halbritter said. “As she concludes her presidency, the college’s financial position is strong.”
Wesleyan has also been honored frequently during the last decade. Both the Learning Center and the Center for Community Engagement have earned national recognition and Wesleyan has been the only West Virginia college or university to be included in the “Great Schools at Great Prices” category in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Guide for the past four years.
In addition, Wesleyan has received regional acclaim for its 24 international scholarship winners, including 13 Fulbright winners, two Gilman winners, and the first West Virginia college student to be named a Mitchell Scholar recipient.
Wesleyan’s athletic program has experienced much success under Balch’s leadership. The college has recently hosted NCAA II regional tournaments in softball and women’s soccer and advanced to NCAA post-season play in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s tennis and men’s and women’s track. Wesleyan can also boast of having more student athletes honored for academic excellence in the Mountain East Conference than any other school with an overall student-athlete grade point average above 3.0.
Additionally, Wesleyan added new bleachers to Culpepper Softball Field, Culpepper Soccer Stadium, Hank Ellis Baseball Field and the Rockefeller Gymnasium. Currently, Wesleyan is in the process of renovating Ross Field into a multi-purpose athletic facility and constructing a new tennis center.
Along with the many achievements accomplished at Wesleyan during her presidency, Balch was also actively involved in a number of leadership positions, Long said. She has served as the chair of the Mountain East Conference and the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, vice chair of the West Virginia Independent Colleges and Universities Association, chair of the Appalachian College Association, and chair of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of The United Methodist Church. She has served as a board member of the Presidents’ Independent Colleges Enterprise (ICE), West Virginia Campus Compact, West Virginia Science and Research Council, Region VII Planning and Development Council, College Summit Advisory Board, Upshur County Development Authority and National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).
Prior to her presidency at Wesleyan, Balch served as president of Mayville State University, North Dakota, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Bethany College, vice provost for academic planning at California State University, Chico, associate dean for academic affairs at San Diego State University, Imperial Campus, director of teacher education at San Diego State and was a 10-year faculty member at WVWC.
She has been named Phi Delta Kappa Educator of the Year, Teacher Educator of the Year for California, Imperial County Woman of the Year, selected as an ACE Fellow, a recipient of the leadership award for dedicated service to North Dakota, Buckhannon Chamber Commerce Business Woman of the Year, Distinguished Alumna of West Virginia University’s College of Education and Human Services Hall of Fame, and elected into the Uniontown High School (PA) Hall of Fame.
She received her bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College and her master’s and doctoral degrees from West Virginia University. She has done postgraduate work at two Harvard University programs.
She is married to Patrick Balch, a retired professor from West Virginia University and San Diego State University. They have a son, Paul, a civil engineer, in Phoenix, Arizona, and a daughter, Julie, who is a pediatric hand/upper extremity surgeon at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Balch and her husband plan to move to The Villages, Florida, after departing Wesleyan in December. She plans to continue her love of higher education through potential part-time work with a search firm that helps place administrators for colleges and universities.
“As Pam prepares to leave Wesleyan and enter the next chapter in her life, on behalf of the Board, we want to thank her for her years of leadership and her willingness to work collaboratively,” Halbritter said. “It has resulted in a shared vision where everyone is focused on attracting and graduating students, providing them with a quality education while they are here.”
A nationwide search for Wesleyan’s next president is underway.