In just a few weeks, the president's office at Huntington University will be emptied of the collection of college mugs Blair Dowden has accumulated over the past 22 years.
Sherilyn Emberton, Dowden's successor, will add her own personal touches - a few probably reflective of her Texas heritage - to the office.
Dowden plans to stick around campus for a while, helping Emberton learn the ropes and attending a couple of events in June; then, he's going to enjoy some down time with his wife, Chris, and their grandchildren.
Six months, he says, to mull over the possibilities that lie ahead - maybe volunteer work, possibly a paying job, perhaps a consulting gig. Wherever God leads him, he says.
"Wherever I can serve the Lord and be helpful," Dowden says as he chats about life after Huntington University.
He might even have some continuing role at HU.
"Whatever she (Emberton) wants me to do," he says. "I am very open to that."
The appointment of G. Blair Dowden (the "G," it was recently revealed, stands for George) as president of Huntington University - then Huntington College; it changed its name in 2005 - in 1991 was the fulfillment of a career goal he'd set for himself. Always interested in working at a college, he initially thought it would be in a teaching role; then he started envisioning himself in an administrative role involving students.
Having worked with college presidents, though, he says he was aware that the trappings and prestige that come with the office quickly fades in comparison to the responsibilities he'd shoulder.
"I knew you really had to be called to it," he says. "I really had to think about whether God was calling me to a presidency."
Dowden came to HU with an undergraduate degree from Wheaton College - where he and Chris met - and a master's and doctorate from Ball State University. Even with a wife, two kids and a job, he finished both the master's and doctorate with 4.0 GPAs.
"I took it very seriously, and I enjoyed it immensely," he says. "Chris was very supportive."
He worked part time; she had a home day care and worked as a Welcome Wagon lady; an outing to the Ball State swimming pool was a "cheap date."
"Those were good years," he says.
He met his predecessor as HU president, Taylor University grad Gene Habecker, while Dowden was working as special assistant to the president at Taylor; the two later renewed their acquaintance at Houghton (NY) University, where Dowden was serving as vice president for development and Habecker visited to present a lecture.
When Habecker decided to leave Huntington, he called Dowden to see if he'd be interested in the job.
He and Chris came to Huntington with two kids, an eighth-grader and a high school sophomore. The kids have grown and moved away, and have given the Dowdens five grandchildren. They're living in Indianapolis and in Port Huron, MI; Dowden says he and his wife will probably remain in the Midwest.
During his 22 years in Huntington - he says it's the longest he's ever lived in one place - Dowden's focus has understandably been on the university, but he says the school is inextricably tied to the community.
"It's a wonderfully synergistic relationship," he says.
HU faculty members use their skills and education in serving on community boards; HU graduates take on leadership roles in the community. Currently, he notes, the mayor, United Way director, school superintendent and Huntington County Economic Development director are all HU grads.
"You'll find that there's a lot of students who just fall in love with the community and want to stay after graduation," Dowden says.
Before graduation, HU students volunteer in the community - something that's not required, but something that's been "part of our DNA," Dowden says.
And the character of the community is part of what draws students to HU. Many of them are from smaller communities, he says, and are looking for a school in a similar community that offers the major they want and has a Christ-centered mission.
HU fits that bill.
The types of arts programming and lectures HU offers to Huntington "doesn't happen in most communities the size of Huntington," Dowden says.
And then there's the economic impact. Dowden says conservative estimates are that a university has an economic impact on its community that's at least equal to its operating budget; on the high end, analysts say the impact is two to two and a half times the operating budget.
Huntington University has an operating budget of about $34 million.
Since Dowden was named 12th president of the institution in 1991, HU has doubled its enrollment, tripled its endowment and constructed or remodeled eight buildings. Academic programs for undergraduate, adult and graduate students were expanded, and some of the university's largest and fastest growing degree programs - including nursing and digital media arts - were launched.
During Dowden's tenure, HU was instrumental in launching the Harmony Initiative, a movement designed to encourage cultural harmony, and Dowden says he's seen a gradual change in attitudes.
"I think our community understands the importance of being welcoming to individuals of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds," Dowden says.
Dowden says he'll miss the relationships he's developed in both the community and at the university - especially the opportunity to be involved with students. With an average of 250 students in each of the 22 graduating classes since Dowden joined HU 22 years ago, he's had the opportunity to work with some 5,500 students over the years.
"That's a lot of students," he says.
He stays in touch through alumni gatherings.
"It's really neat to see what God is doing in their lives," he says. "That really is your reward."