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Sternberg out as UW president

Robert Sternberg Robert Sternberg Courtesy photo

LARAMIE — Robert Sternberg is out as president of the University of Wyoming after four and a half rocky months.

The UW Board of Trustees announced Sternberg’s resignation in an afternoon media conference Thursday. Sternberg’s departure was effective immediately, but he will remain on the staff through the end of the year. He was being paid $425,000 annually under a three-year contract, and will receive a $325,000 payout as part of the resignation agreement.

“I care a great deal about this university,” Sternberg said in a prepared statement. “And I have come to realize that as wonderful as the University of Wyoming is, it may not be the best fit for me as president. So I tendered my resignation today to the Board of Trustees.”

Board President David Bostrom said Sternberg was not asked to resign but did so on his own. He said the two men met Wednesday and Sternberg said then he was ready to leave the post.

“At a meeting of the board today, we accepted Bob’s resignation with understanding, but appreciate his sensitivity to the overall needs of the university and its future,” Bostrom said. “We are grateful for what Bob has done for our institution and wish him the very best in his future endeavors. “The board fully accepts and endorses the personnel changes and changes in direction at the university that have taken place in the last several months that emphasize and reinforce the university’s land-grant mission with service to the people of Wyoming, its state government and the economy.”

Richard “Dick” McGinity, who had been serving as vice president of academic affairs, after being tthe Bill Daniels Chair of Business Ethics, was named interim president.

“This is a role that I accept with some regret,” McGinity said. But he said it “had a lot of promise” and he intends to “restore a sense of calm and confidence” on campus.

“The board has complete confidence in Dr. McGinity and his team to carry on the administrative functions of the university and move the institution forward while we consider how to proceed with a presidential search,” Bostrom said. “We also are confident that members of the university community will pull together to assure that UW continues to deliver top-notch education to its students, important research and service to Wyoming and the world.”

Sternberg, 61, served four months as the leader of the state’s only four-year university. It was a short, rocky tenure, with top university officials forced from office or departing on their own. After a day of meetings, online reports and rumors, Sternberg’s departure was announced during the conference in the first-floor atrium of Coe Library on the UW campus.

When his appointment was announced in May, following a controversial, closed-door selection process, Sternberg said he looked forward to leading UW.

“I really believe in the mission of land-grant institutions, which is to develop ethical leaders who are going to make a positive, meaningful and enduring difference to the world,” he said then. “That’s what I think education is all about.”

Sternberg said then that his top priorities would be working with faculty and administrators to enhance how the school nurtures tomorrow’s leaders and making the school a place “where faculty also can become world-class leaders in their fields.”

He had served as provost and senior vice president at Oklahoma State University, as well as regents professor of psychology and education. But after arriving in Laramie, he found himself in the midst of what came to be described as chaos.

The school’s provost, three associate provosts and four deans resigned, and Sternberg said last week some of them were asked to depart. Stephen Easton, the former dean of the College of Law, challenged Sternberg at an Nov. 8 forum.

Another sign of the turmoil on campus came after a report on the Cowboy’s athletic programs authorized by Sternberg said the teams were mired in medoicrity and needed to aspire to a higher level of competition. Athletic Director Tom Burman challenged the report, which was compiled by an outside agency.

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