KINGSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — After more than a decade, the University of Rhode Island (URI) will have a new president.

David Dooley officially retires this weekend after 12 years.

From leading the university through the challenges of COVID, adding cutting-edge engineering facilities, and creating a footprint, he says he’s proud to leave the school in a stronger place than when he arrived.

In his final days on campus, Dooley admits he’s taken some time to take it all in and look back at his accomplishments.

The 69-year-old says his impression of the school when he first started the job hasn’t changed.

“The primary reason I came to URI was that it was a unique opportunity. I thought there was no other public research university that could have the impact on its home state as the university could have on Rhode Island,” Dooley said.

“I thought, ‘this is a place to go to really make a difference,’ because if the University of Rhode Island grows, succeeds, becomes more prominent, more successful, becomes a bigger economic engine, the entire state will benefit in a way that doesn’t happen in bigger states,” he continued.

During Dooley’s tenure, the university took close to five years to remake its general education curriculum, grew the student body, and invested more than $800 million in capital projects and improvements across all four campuses.

He also credited URI’s decision a number of years ago in building a reserve fund with helping the school whether the unexpected financial hit on higher education from COVID.

When asked about the possibility of URI merging with Rhode Island College or the Community College of Rhode Island for fiscal reasons in the future, he says the university needs to continue to work closely with them in every way that they can to enhance opportunities for students.

“I think Rhode Island needs to have a very serious look at how to become better at what we’re doing amongst cooperation with three institutions and that could take a variety of different paths such as more integrated transfer pathways from CCRI, more opportunities to augment their educations at RIC,” Dooley explained. “A merger is going to be a very difficult political challenge for the state, it always is.”

As Dooley wraps up his time in Kingston, he took a look at what he hoped his legacy at the university would be.

“I think I would like them to say URI lived up to its promises in the sense we will be transparent, we will be dedicated to making a better economic and social future for the people of Rhode Island,” he said. “We will be a more active player in helping the state grow and prosper and URI has delivered on all of them.”

The university’s new president takes over next week.

The board has chosen Dr. Marc Parlange, provost and senior vice president of Monash University in Australia, to serve as URI’s 12th president.

Having been born in Providence, Parlange is no stranger to Rhode Island. He also, according to the university, is recognized internationally for his expertise in environmental fluid mechanics.