FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart will step down as chancellor on July 31, the university said Monday.

FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart will step down as chancellor on July 31, the university said Monday.

Gearhart plans to take some time off, then return to teaching as part of the faculty of the College of Education and Health Professions, according to a UA news release.

"I have four main reasons for making this difficult decision," Gearhart said in a Jan. 9 letter to UA System President Don Bobbitt. "They are our four grandchildren: Ben, age 5; Caroline, age 4; Ellie, almost 2; and soon to be born, Lily Jane. Going forward, I hope to spend more quality time with each of them as well as with our children and their spouses, Katy and Justin and Brock and Lindsey."

Gearhart became UA’s fifth chancellor in 2008 after serving for 10 years as vice chancellor for university advancement. He previously served for three years as director of development in the early 1980s.

As vice chancellor, Gearhart led the university in the largest fundraising endeavor ever undertaken by an organization in Arkansas, the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century, which raised $1 billion for academic programs. That campaign included the largest single gift to an American public institution of higher education, a $300 million gift to found an honors college and endow the graduate school, as well as a $50 million gift to endow the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

A native of Fayetteville, Gearhart has a bachelor’s degree from Westminster College and a law degree and a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Arkansas. He previously served as senior vice president of Penn State University — during which time he was named a Fulbright Scholar and studied at Oxford University — and as senior vice president and managing director of the international consulting firm Grenzebach Glier & Associates.

As UA chancellor, Gearhart instituted the first tuition freeze in 24 years and implemented a $400 million campus building renovation and refurbishment plan of academic and athletic facilities, as well as a campus-wide energy savings plan.

He has also undertaken a renewed emphasis on the arts on campus, including the establishment of the "All Steinway Campus" and the Jim and Joyce Faulkner Center for the Performing Arts, scheduled to open in 2015.

Gearhart’s wife of 40 years, Jane, is also an active figure on campus, having devoted time and leadership to causes such as the Full Circle Campus Food Pantry.

Gov.-elect Asa Hutchinson issued a statement Monday expressing appreciation for Gearhart’s service.

"His leadership of the Campaign for The Twenty-First Century set the stage for future success, and as chancellor he has led the flagship institution through a period of tremendous growth in enrollment, achievement, and influence," Hutchinson said. "Chancellor Gearhart has the University of Arkansas well poised to become a Top 50 research institution, and he is to be congratulated for his accomplishments.

"As grandparents ourselves, Susan and I understand the desire of Dr. and Mrs. Gearhart to spend more time with their growing family, and wish Dr. Gearhart all the best as he continues to serve the University in a significant way."

UA System President Donald Bobbitt said in the release, "Dr. Gearhart will leave an indelible mark on the institution through his 20 years of service. I join the many others who wish him much success and thank him for his many contributions to the University of Arkansas and higher education in the state."

Bobbitt said he will proceed "deliberately but aggressively" with a national search for a new chancellor.