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February 10, 2017

In November 2016, Hampshire College president Jonathan Lash found himself under pressure for his decision to remove the flag flying at the center of campus. (Kirk Carapezza/WGBH)

Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash is stepping down just months after the small liberal arts school was thrust into a national debate surrounding the American flag.

President Lash announced Friday he will retire in June 2018 after seven years in the position.

The announcement comes about two months after his decision to remove a flag from campus sparked national controversy. 

But Lash, 72, says the flag issue did not influence his decision to retire.

"It really didn't. I started talking to the chair of my board last summer," Lash told On Campus. "Hampshire can be a tumultuous place. It goes with the kind of school we are."

Lash was on medical leave during the Spring 2016 semester due to complications from back surgery, according to a statement released on Friday. 

Lash says retiring will allow him to spend more time with his family in western Massachusetts. 

Hampshire's Board of Trustees is launching a national search to replace him.

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