Western Washington University President Karen Morse announced Friday she will retire next September. Morse, who has headed Western since...

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Western Washington University President Karen Morse announced Friday she will retire next September.

Morse, who has headed Western since becoming its 12th president in 1993, was the second woman in the state’s history to lead one of its six publicly funded colleges and universities. She is the longest-serving university president in the state.

About 12,000 students attend Western, in Bellingham.

In recent years, Morse has led the state’s public four-year institutions in seeking state funding for more faculty, buildings and programs.

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Morse said she is proud of “increasing the quality of faculty and students and maintaining a focus on student education in a beautiful environment.”

Western’s student enrollment grew about 30 percent and the faculty ranks about 37 percent during Morse’s tenure. The student-faculty ratio went from 1 instructor per 21 students to 1 per 18.5.

The school has become more competitive: it accepts less than a third of the roughly 9,000 students who apply each year. New faculty are expected to include students in their research projects.

Morse is now working on plans to expand Western’s campus onto the Bellingham waterfront. “It’s been a wonderful time, and I’m glad I have one more year to do some more,” she said.

Before becoming Western’s president, Morse, 67, served as provost at Utah State University. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Ohio’s Denison University and her master’s degree and doctorate in chemistry at the University of Michigan.

Her salary this year will be nearly $243,000.

The university is establishing a search committee and hiring a consultant in its effort to find a new president for the 2008-09 school year.

Judy Chia Hui Hsu: 206-464-3315

or jhsu@seattletimes.com