In an unexpected announcement, Dixie College President Douglas D. Alder, 59, told the state Board of Regents last week that he plans to retire from his college presidency next year and return to the classroom as a history professor.

Alder said he will leave Dixie's helm after seven years because the demands of the office have taken their toll. It's time for Dixie to have a new leader who possesses a new burst of energy, he said. "It takes an enormous amount of energy (to be president). I don't think you realize how much. It's 24 hours a day."His comment alluded to the tremendous pressures placed on today's college presidents. They are much more than leaders of their institutions' faculties. They are administrators, fund-raisers, political lobbyists, public relations spokesmen, advocates for the students and community leaders.

For his part, Alder has worn these many hats admirably.

Year after year, he lobbied tirelessly at the Utah Legislature, trying to secure a much-needed pay raise for his faculty. This year, his voice was finally heard, and Dixie faculty salaries got a hefty 10.14 percent boost as part of the community college salary catchup.

Under Alder's leadership, Dixie, one of the state's smallest schools, secured private donations that other, much larger schools might envy. Dixie raised $17 million in the past four years.

The Alder administration also stressed the importance of academic rigor, using the slogan "Dixie College: An Academic Climate," and recognized the need to expand continuing-education courses for the community's large senior citizen population.

Since Alder began his presidency in 1986, Dixie's student enrollment has jumped 27.2 percent. The St. George school's enrollment is expected to top 3,000 students this fall. During these tough budget times, which have forced the regents to cap student enrollment, Alder has vigorously supported the effort to keep the college doors open to all who want to become students.

Alder's accomplishments aren't limited to higher education. He received the 1991 Governor's Award in the Humanities for his work in organizing conferences, lectures and book groups dealing with history, literature and public issues throughout the state.

Another year will pass before Alder actually steps down. It's not too early, however, to thank him for the outstanding performance, dedication and leadership he has shown for Dixie and Utah higher education.