Dr. Al Bowman, citing health concerns, announced in an e-mail to students and staff Monday he is stepping down as president.
"It has been a really, really, really though decision," he said in an interview with WMBD 31.
Bowman has been with the university for 34 years.
His career in higher education began as a faculty member. Then he took the reigns as president in 2003.
It is a position Bowman describes as a dream come true.
"This has been my dream job, and it has been the best nine years of my life," he said.
During Bowman's tenure as what he calls the "face of the university," funding from the state declined to record levels.
High school graduation rates also led to a smaller pool of potentional college students.
Yet, Illinois State under Bowman's leadership expanded its physical footprint, national reputation and student profile.
They are the three areas where he takes the most pride.
"We have gotten a lot done in a fairly short amount of time and we did it without taking on a lot of debt," he said. "I think we've positioned ourselves to thrive in the future."
But several years ago, Bowman underwent surgery to fix a serious medical issue. While it was a successful procedure, it got him thinking about the future.
Bowman, who is known for being an avid mountain climber and runner, even scaled back on his physical activities.
"I began to think about does it make sense to work another four years or to pull back a little bit and try to stay as healthy as I can be," he said.
After what he describes as "intense" conversations with his family and close friends, the 59-year-old ultimately decided it was time to retire.
He feels the demands of university president are too much to continue on in his current capacity. He describes it as a job that requires 70-80 hour work weeks.
Bowman said, "You've really got to decide how far you can push yourself and I decided the safest thing for me to do is to dial it back a bit."
But don't think you won't still see him around campus. After retirement, Bowman intends on taking a light teaching load.
"I still feel like a professor. I like getting up early, going to the office, getting ready for the day and planning lessons," he said.
He and his wife, Linda, who also teaches at Illinois State, plan on buying a house and remaining Twin City residents.
"We love it here," Bowman said.
Now the university begins the process of finding a replacement.
Bowman said he does not intend on having a say in that process, but has an idea of who he would like to see as president.
"They've got to know the campus, the culture and the community here," he said.
University trustees are expected to hold a special meeting soon to discuss their options.
Bowman intentionally made his announcement at this time of year so there would be time to find a replacement by fall 2013.
"By doing the announcement now rather in the spring allows the university to do a search and get a president in place for next fall," he said.
In the meantime, Bowman plans on remaining president and preparing for the next chapter in his life.
It should also be noted his health condition, which the university is not publicly disclosing, is not life-threatening.
Trustees had just voted to extend Bowman's contract in October.