I have informed the board of directors for the Center for Inquiry that I will be resigning my position as president and CEO on December 31, 2015.
This blog post will explain why I am making his announcement now. It will also briefly touch on the reasons for my decision.
The board has asked me to make my announcement several months in advance of my planned departure principally for two reasons. First, the board wants to conduct a thorough, open search for a successor. This search will be facilitated if it’s public knowledge that I will be leaving.
In addition, both the board and I want to avoid any suggestion that this transition is sudden, forced, or the result of any internal turmoil or problems at CFI. As some may recall, the transition that occurred when I became president and CEO in 2008 was less than optimal, and, among other things, sparked all sorts of unfounded rumors about “palace coups,” “power grabs,” and so forth. For obvious reasons, we would not like that unhappy time to be repeated.
And there’s no reason for less than a smooth transition. My decision to leave is entirely voluntary; it was made without any pressure or suggestion, direct or indirect, from the board of directors. Moreover, although it is always dangerous for a nonprofit organization to acknowledge that it is financially healthy (because we do need to keep those donations coming in), the fact is that CFI, because of the dedication and generosity of its supporters, is in sound shape financially. Our endowment is larger than it has ever been.
As to my reasons for leaving, first, I think it is a good idea for leadership of organizations, whether it’s a for-profit or a nonprofit corporation, to change every so often. Static leadership can produce static ideas. Plus, the longer one stays in a leadership position, the more likely it is that the organization will become identified with that person, which, on the whole, I do not believe to be a desirable outcome. Secular organizations in particular should be wary of fostering a cult of personality or of acquiescing in lifetime tenure for leaders. Too often we’re in danger of being mistaken for religions; no need to compound that problem by emulating the leadership practices of religious sects.
By December, I will have held my position for 7 ½ years. I think I could serve a few more years without going past my sell-by date, but now is a good time to leave. Without getting into unnecessary detail, my health has been variable over the last couple of years. Although currently I feel great (well, great for 62), there’s no guarantee that conditions that have troubled me in the recent past will not return. This job is demanding and, if done right, often requires seven day work weeks. It would be a disservice to the organization for me to plan to remain in this position for an extended period when I cannot provide assurance that I will remain in good health throughout that time.
Finally, there are personal reasons that make this year an appropriate time to leave.
But please don’t send me either “sorry to see you go” or “good riddance” messages just yet. First, as indicated, I’ll still on the job for the next nine months—and your opinion of me may change for the better or worse by December 31. Second, I will not be in a position to respond to any messages for a while. My wife and I are celebrating our forty years together by taking a trip. I’ll be back April 6.