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July 21, 2016

Temple expects 'smooth transition' in wake of Theobald resignation

University's board of trustees planned to dismiss him due to budget deficit

Temple University President Neil Theobald resigned this afternoon after the school's board of trustees voted "No Confidence" in him earlier this month.

Kevin Feeley, spokesman for the Board of Trustees, said a mutual resolution was reached with Theobald on Thursday to step down, precluding the need for a scheduled vote to officially dismiss him. His resignation is effective August 1.

"We're pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that serves the interests of the university — faculty, staff and students," Feeley said. "For our part, the board thanks Dr. Theobald for his service to Temple. We wish him the best in the future and the goal here was always to reach a resolution."

The terms of the agreement will remain confidential, Feeley said. 

Ray Betzner, a spokesman for the university, said he and the Temple community expect a "smooth transition" from Theobald. He added that the board hopes to allow everyone to get adjusted to the changes that have taken place before starting the search process for a new president.  

In Theobald's stead, the board has appointed University Chancellor Richard Englert as acting president, a role he held in 2012 before Theobald's appointment.

"I am honored to accept the offer of the Temple University Board of Trustees and step into the role of acting president," Englert said in a statement. "I share your devotion to our great university. I do so because of my deep respect for Temple. Having spent most of my academic career here, I have seen how Temple has become one of the very best public urban research universities in the nation."

Last week's "no confidence" vote came after a series of disagreements over the discovery of a $22 million over-allocation of merit scholarships in the school's 2016-17 budget.

Last month, Theobald let Provost Hai-Lung Dai go because of the deficit, but the board ultimately decided to hold him accountable as president of the university. Theobald knew of the deficit in the summer of 2015, the board said, but only made them aware this spring after it had more than doubled. There was also some lasting displeasure about cuts to athletic programs in recent years.

Following Dai's dismissal, several thousand faculty members signed an online petition calling for increased scrutiny of Theobald's leadership.

Dai claimed he was not made aware of the deficit until March of this year. He also vehemently denied a sexual harassment allegation dating back six years that arose in a recent email from Theobald to the board.

Over about three-and-a-half years as president, Theobald led Temple through a period of record growth in enrollment, private fundraising and research dollars. Some faculty members, students and alumni praised his contributions and leadership. 

"Many of us on the faculty have been very pleased about and grateful for the direction in which he has led the university," said Jaya Ramji-Nogales, a professor at Temple's Beasley School of Law.

“During my time in school, I watched our University transform into a top-notch institution and I believe that progress is in many ways thanks to Dr. Theobald's leadership,” added Ryan Rinaldi, the 2015-16 Student Government President.

An attempt to reach Theobald's attorney for comment was not immediately returned. University officials said that any forthcoming statement from him would be issued independently. 

In the wake of news about Theobald's eventual removal, the university sent an email to faculty assuring them that Temple is not in bad financial shape.

The email said that the budget had already been balanced through administrative cuts. It also said Temple was in the "strongest position it has seen in recent memory."

Theobald, an expert in education finance, will be the shortest-tenured president in Temple history. His resignation comes a year and a half before the end of his five-year contract. 

Veteran faculty member JoAnne A. Epps, nominated by Theobald to replace Dai as provost and executive vice president, was officially appointed by the board last week. 

Englert praised Epps, a legal scholar, for her thoughtfulness and distinction as a leader. He also thanked the Board of Trustees and encouraged faculty and students to remain actively engaged in their teaching, education and personal development. 

"While our leadership has changed over the decades, our mission has not," Englert continued. "Temple has been — and will continue to be — a university that is accessible, affordable, diverse and high quality. That is who we are. It is in our DNA."