The announcement came as a shock to many at the school that was in the midst of two days of spring commencement ceremonies.
“Twenty-two hours ago we were dealt an emotional blow,” Ken Harmon, KSU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs said during Wednesday’s afternoon commencement ceremony, the last for Papp.
Had the announcement not come Tuesday night, it would have come at the end of Wednesday, Papp said. “Ten years seemed to make sense. A decade sounds right; 11 doesn’t sound right, and 12 is two years away … It was our time after a decade.”
Papp said he was not asked to stepped down, and is not pursing a position at another institution, although he has had several inquiries. He plans to travel, including visiting family in Florida, before taking over as chairman of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce in 2017.
During his tenure, Papp oversaw the consolidation of the university with the former Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, that has helped boost enrollment to more than 33,000 students. He also led the school in starting a football program, and almost doubled the number of academic programs. Papp faced criticism from some community members unhappy with the consolidation, and for defending an illegal immigrant student at Kennesaw State from deportation, which received national attention.
Papp’s career with the University System has spanned 43 years, including administrative and faculty positions at the system office, Southern Poly and Georgia Tech.
In his final address at Wednesday’s commencement, Papp celebrated the graduates and was surrounded on stage by administrators and faculty, some of whom were crying, as he quoted from his favorite rock song. “For this university,” he said, “for the next ten years, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”