President Ettling will be retiring at the end of this academic year, marking the end of his 15-year run as an administrator for Plattsburgh State. But he is not leaving without saying a proper goodbye.
Tuesday, May 7 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. marked one of two Open Houses hosted by Ettling and his wife, Lisa Lewis. Guests were greeted at the doors of the Olive Mason Flint House, a grand house built in the Roaring ’20s, by the beaming smiles of Ettling and Lewis and the rich perfume of fresh lilies.
High heels clicked on the blond hardwood floor and warm lighting cast shadows on magnificent works of art; some from PSUC’s collection and some from Ettling and Lewis’ travels to foreign countries. Ettling reiterated that everything artistic, decorative or homey that was not already provided by the university, was Lewis’ doing.
An assortment of fruit, cheese and desserts was catered by Chartwells. The casual fare fit the casual atmosphere of the open house. The main event was not the food anyway, it was to celebrate with and speak to Ettling regarding his experience as president of PSUC.
“I have mixed feelings [about retiring],” Ettling said. “I love the job, and I’ve absolutely had the time of my life. It’s the culmination of my career. Looking back, the 15 years have passed quickly.”
For the first time in PSUC history, a female president will be assuming the position Ettling had held for almost a decade.
“One of the things that will be most dynamic thing about the transition is that my successor will be a woman,” Ettling said. “And it’s high-time.”
A legacy that Ettling and Lewis will be leaving for PSUC is the Lisa Lewis and John Ettling Meditation Garden, a project which Lewis is passionate about.
“I have been enamored with plants and flowers and playing in the dirt,” Lewis said.
The lush garden will occupy the currently empty courtyard in Hawkins Hall. Cellphones and other electronic devices will have to be turned off once individuals enter the quiet space.
“We wanted it to be a place where everyone on campus can feel free to come and take a few moments or an hour or whatever they need, to unplug literally and also to consciously perfect the art of doing nothing,” Lewis said.
Ettling and Lewis have plans to return to North Dakota to be with family. But for now, they are enjoying the time they have left in the Olive Mason Flint House, where they live with their cats Olive and Fig.
Ettling reflects about the future female president our university will have next academic year.
“When you think about it, the president of a university in some ways should reflect the student body faculty and staff. Well 57-58 percent of our students are women,” Ettling said. “Mater means ‘mother’ in Latin. There’s a reason we call the place we go to school alma mater.”