Bob Faris, athletic director at George Washington since 1955, announced his retirement yesterday, effective Sept. 15.

"I feel I have the program where I want it to be and decided it's time for me to go ahead and enjoy life," said Faris, who will be 65 in October. "I just want to do some traveling, play golf and learn how to fish."

Faris said his decision to retire was made easier by the recent success of GW's basketball team under Coach Gerry Gimelstob. "I would not have left if I thought the basketball program had not turned the corner. I am leaving a superb coaching staff highlighted by Gerry, who has already turned the basketball program around."

Gimelstob, who was hired by Faris a year ago, said he was "very surprised" when Faris told him of his decision yesterday morning.

"I'm sorry to see him retire," Gimelstob said. "I'll always be grateful to Mr. Faris for giving me the opportunity to be a head coach. Even though he's retiring as athletic director, he'll continue to be an intregal part of the program, especially the basketball program.

"I know he was very satisfied with the direction in which things are heading at GW."

Bob Frailey, the athletic director at American University and a longtime friend of Faris, also was surprised when he learned of the retirement. "When I got this job at AU 17 years ago, Bob Faris was largely responsible," Frailey said. "This is a loss for GW. He did what was right all the time, even if it wasn't the best thing for GW."

GW has not named a successor to Faris. Gimelstob said he had not had time to consider whether he would be interested. GW President Lloyd Elliott could not be reached for comment, but his office said Elliot will assemble a committee to look for a replacement.

Faris came to George Washington in 1935 and became the school's first basketball all-America. In his three years of varsity competition, Faris led the Colonials to a 42-16 record. He also won three letters in football and tennis.

After coaching football at the University of Nebraska, Faris returned to George Washington in 1955 as athletic director.

As Faris said yesterday, "There have been peaks and valleys over the years." The football team won the 1957 Sun Bowl, 13-0, over Texas Western, but the program was later dropped. GW won 19 Southern Conference sports championships during Faris' tenure.

When asked yesterday to reflect on his favorite moments in 27 years as athletic director, Faris talked about having the first black basketball player and first black football player to play in the Southern Conference. "I've always been proud of that," he said.

"Retirement is something I've been giving some serious thought for some time," Faris said. "There's no bitterness or sadness involved. You have your days when you have to put out some fires. But all in all, it's been great."