MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - In an exclusive interview, Coastal Carolina University’s president shared his accomplishments after serving the school for more than a decade, the reason for his departure and his future plans.
“I remember when I was interviewed and one of the questions I was asked from the alumni of the institution at the time was what difference would I make? I remember responding, and I truly believe it to this day my goal was to make the degree from CCU worth more tomorrow than it was the day you got it," DeCenzo stated.
DeCenzo added he believes he did just that.
"You know we’ve always focused since becoming president was living our strategic plan and our plan was to grow a fully comprehensive institution that was known literally around the world.”
Today, DeCenzo can proudly say as president there are more than 10,000 students at CCU represented from all 50 states, 30 plus countries and a growing faculty.
“This area has seen a tremendous growth and I’d like to think part of that is because of CCU. Each year we do an economic impact and we are up to around $550 million annually of an economic impact in the state and clearly the majority is here in Horry County,” DeCenzo said. He added CCU contributes $1.5 million a day to Horry County’s economy.
When DeCenzo plans to retire in 2021, it will mark his 14th year as CCU’s president and he says he is only the second president at CCU since it became an independent university in 1993.
“So, I had a good foundation that was built when I took over in 2007, and we just continued with the upward trend.”
From year one to now, there are many achievements DeCenzo said stand out to him, but one is special. “There are a lot of things athletically that stand out, but certainly the one that stands out is winning the National Championship in baseball in 2016. That I think people knew of Coastal, but that was clearly a high mark. We’re not done yet with our national championships, we will continue moving forward.”
DeCenzo reflected on the past fourteen years serving as CCU’s president and explained why he feels good about his tenure.
“You know, there are a lot of things, but obviously from a personal point of view, when you figure the average length of college president tenure is just under four years. Being president for 14 years I think is an achievement, but I will be 66 years old in 2021. You begin to realize that you can’t do everything forever and there comes a time where you recognize that it’s time to pass the baton.”
After his departure, DeCenzo shared his plans to spend more time with family, his grandchildren and travel more.
“I have not been writing for probably the past ten twelve years, I want to get back into my writing, I serve on a corporate board, so those kind of things will keep me busy. Someone recently said to me, you don’t want to retire Friday and wake up Monday morning and have nowhere to go, so I will have some place to go Monday morning," he explained smiling.
When asked where DeCenzo sees the future of higher education in the next five to ten years, he replied, “I think higher ed is probably almost at a cross road. We can’t keep passing costs on to students, as a parent who paid tuition I know what it’s like to write those checks and it’s difficult for so many. We’ve got to find more ways to be more effective and efficient and find opportunities, so it’s not just the degree someone will achieve, but setting them up to move forward in their careers.”
Lastly, a legacy at CCU DeCenzo feels strongly about. He said, "I hope people would look back and say you know what he did made a difference, he came in here with a vision he came in here continuing to put this institution on the map and he had a belief we could grow and grow smartly, and I am very comfortable we have done all those things.”
June 30, 2021, is DeCenzo’s last day as CCU’s president. There is currently a search committee formed and DeCenzo said the president-elect will hopefully be alongside him his last year in 2020. He also encourages people to get involved with the selection process when there are opportunities for public input.