- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The first woman to serve as president of the University of Alabama on a permanent basis will step down next year, the school announced Wednesday.

The university released a statement from Judy Bonner saying she will leave office no later than Sept. 30, 2015. She said she wants to return to the classroom but plans to take a yearlong sabbatical before she resumes teaching in fall 2016.

As president, Judy Bonner faced the high-profile challenge of leading the campus through controversy that erupted last year following reports that all-white sororities had rejected blacks as members because of their race.

Historically white sororities have since accepted some blacks as members. The change came after administrators altered the rules for the recruitment process known as rush.

In a letter to Robert Witt, the chancellor of the three-campus University of Alabama System, Bonner said she was announcing her departure early to allow time for trustees to begin searching for her replacement next month.

“I will do everything I can to assist with a seamless transition,” Bonner said in her public statement.

Bonner was selected as president of the Tuscaloosa campus in November 2012. She had been interim president following the resignation of Guy Bailey.

Bonner, a graduate of the university and longtime employee, also worked as provost and other academic roles at Alabama, which has grown rapidly in the last decade and now has an enrollment of about 36,000 students.

“Looking back on my career here, it is fair to say that I have totally enjoyed every position I have held. I loved teaching and research. As I moved through various administrative positions, I never forgot that I am a faculty member first,” Bonner said in a statement.

She is the older sister of former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, who now works for the university system as a vice chancellor in charge of government relations.

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