COLLEGEDALE, Tenn. — Students, faculty and staff of Southern Adventist University have begun a week of grieving in sack cloth and ashes after it was announced yesterday that Gordon Bietz, the school’s beloved 70-year-old president, plans to retire in 2016. Bietz has overseen an undeniably impressive transformation of the school over the course of his 19 years as president.
Immediately after Bietz’s announcement to students of his plans to retire, discounted sack cloths and small tubs of ashes were made available at “mourning supply stations” across campus. Ash supplies were exhausted in less than an hour, prompting an emergency overnight delivery order to be placed for more stock from Southern California.
“We’re relaxing our dress code for the next week,” said university spokesperson Tanner Bigsy, shaking some ash out of his hair. “Everyone’s torn up about this news and we fully understand that it will reflect in the appearance of our students and employees.”
Southern’s administrators have already launched a search process for a replacement for Bietz who doubled the school’s student population and oversaw $80 million worth of construction on the campus during his tenure. “It’s going to be a long, hard slog finding a new president,” said Bigsy. “There isn’t a tougher act to follow in all of Adventism.”