Pam Shockley-Zalabak, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for 15 years, intends to retire Feb. 15, CU system President Bruce Benson announced Friday online.

Venkat Reddy, dean of the UCCS College of Business, would serve as interim chancellor, and a search will begin in January for the permanent chancellor, he said.

Shockley-Zalabak, who is in her early 70s, has worked at UCCS in various capacities for 40 of the 50 years the campus has been in existence. She has continued to teach classes in the Communication Department while serving as head of the campus.

Calling her an "exceptional leader," Benson said Shockley-Zalabak had led UCCS from a commuter campus with 6,500 students to a "residential academic and research mainstay in southern Colorado with more than 12,000 students."

UCCS regularly receives recognition from U.S. News & World Report as one of the top regional research universities in the West, Benson added.

And, "Chancellor Shockley-Zalabak has established many and meaningful partnerships with the City of Colorado Springs, military bases in the area, major corporations and federal agencies," Benson said in his announcement of her retirement.

Shockley-Zalabak could not be reached Saturday, but in a message sent Friday to faculty, Shockley-Zalabak thanked them for their hard work and support.

"I value the last fifteen years of representing you as the UCCS Chancellor," she wrote in the email. "I value the work of all of you who have made this campus what it is today. On December 15, I informed President Benson I will be leaving the Chancellor's position and the campus on February 15, 2017. I know the future for UCCS is excellent because of your work and the wonderful students who choose to be Mountain Lions. Please accept my sincere gratitude."

UCCS has become the fastest-growing campus in the CU system, and Shockley-Zalabak has led ambitious expansion projects to meet the growing enrollment. Those include adding and renovating academic space, constructing residence halls and student-support facilities and building health care, athletic and cultural buildings.

She also helped launch the National Cybersecurity Center, a nonprofit organization in Colorado Springs that is working on providing collaborative cybersecurity knowledge and services to the nation.

Among her accolades, Shockley-Zalabak received the 2015 Humanitarian Award, as part of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross' Hometown Heroes program, for her commitment to making the Pikes Peak region a better place to live, work and learn.

"I'm absolutely convinced there is nobody more dedicated to UCCS and her students, but also to the community and the state," Ed Anderson, a retired Army lieutenant general who has worked as the chancellor's military adviser, told The Gazette at the time.

After growing up in Oklahoma, Shockley-Zalabak earned a doctoral degree in organizational communication from CU-Boulder and became a communication professor and vice chancellor at UCCS.

She also helped form the Department of Communication and focused her work on organizational trust and the impact of new communication techniques on organizations. She's authored numerous books on the topic.

Shockley-Zalabak has said she didn't aspire to become chancellor - she was the only executive available to step in when the former chancellor resigned in 2001, and accepted the job permanently in 2002.

Since then, Shockley-Zalabak led the school out of the worst financial crisis it faced since opening in 1965, answered explosive enrollment growth with numerous construction projects, helped develop meaningful relationships with the community and was instrumental in creating a southern Colorado coalition to improve opportunities for first-generation, non-traditional and underrepresented students.

Benson said he applauds Shockley-Zalabak's exemplary service.

"Her distinguished career serves as a beacon for the power and promise of higher education at our university and beyond," he said. "I appreciate the passion, dedication and excellence."

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