BANGOR, Maine — The man credited with ridding a local business college of its “Husson High” reputation and transforming it into Husson University announced Thursday that he will step down as president at the end of 2009 after 22 years.

William H. Beardsley, 66, of Bangor said in a press release announcing the decision that he has no intention of retiring and plans to focus on helping the Maine economy grow and prosper.

“I plan to get more involved in expanding the Maine economy in some significant way,” he said in the press release.

Beardsley is chairman of the Maine Development Foundation and on the board of the Finance Authority of Maine.

“Ireland is 32,000 square miles,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. “Maine is the same size. Ireland now is an economic powerhouse. There’s no reason why if we focus on economic development it can’t be done here.”

When Beardsley first took the job in 1987, Husson College offered associate and Bachelor of Science degrees in business and nursing. At that time, the school was having difficulty keeping up enrollment and was $115 million in debt.

Under Beardsley’s leadership, the school is no longer just a local business school, said Arthur Fuller, chairman of the Husson board of trustees.

“Bill strengthened university finances, expanded enrollments, established schools of health, education, science and humanities and pharmacy, and brought the New England School of Communications, the Eastport Boat School and Unobskey College under the Husson umbrella,” he said in the press release. “This past year we graduated our first doctoral students, added major facilities and officially changed our name from Husson College to Husson University.

“All this and more has been accomplished on Bill’s watch,” he continued. “Knowing him, he will continue to work 24-7 for the next 11 months while the board sets out to find a new leader. He is an outstanding president and will be missed.”

For the immediate future, Beardsley said that Husson still is his top priority.

“I want to graduate another class, visit with Husson’s supporters and alumni, see the professional phase of pharmacy get under way and the law school staffed up and moving towards final approval,” he said. “My goal is to bring in record enrollments next September and then attend the grand opening of our new performing arts center, Gracie Theater.”

Beardsley said that he most likely will be remembered as being very entrepreneurial and leaving Husson in a strong financial position.

“What I’m going to miss most, however, is the camaraderie on campus,” he said, “along with interacting with individual students and the stories that they bring with them and how Husson is playing a role in transforming them.

“The students we prize,” he continued, “are those Maine kids and those first-generation college kids. … You keep hearing that lower-income kids can’t afford college. But we have over 200 students who come from households with incomes under $15,000 a year and we are so proud of them and the ways that they go on to be successful.”

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation, including a former Husson employee, praised Beardsley’s two decades of leadership.

“I have known Bill Beardsley for many years and am proud to call him my friend,” Sen. Susan Collins said in a statement. “I worked closely with Bill as the founding executive director of the Center for Family Business. He is committed to Husson University and led it through an unparalleled period of growth. He will be missed.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe said in a statement that Beardsley’s announcement had taken her by surprise.

“His vibrant and effective leadership has created an educational institution focused on teaching rather than research — a place for imparting and acquiring knowledge that both fosters student development and equips its graduates with the educational tools to be valued civic and business leaders,” she said.

Beardsley earned a doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. His dissertation was on resolving conflicts in multiple-use forest management, with a case study in Aroostook County, according to the press release.

He served as state planner and aide to the governor of Vermont, as vice president of Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and in the Alaska Department of Economic Development, where he was director of the divisions of finance and economics and energy and power development.

While at Husson he also served terms as president of the Maine Higher Education Council and the Maine Independent College Association. Beardsley is also chief operating officer of Husson and of the New England School of Communications. He will step down from those posts as well.