EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr., a medical researcher who has led Stony Brook University in New York for nearly a decade, was named Tuesday as the 21st president of Michigan State University in the wake of the most extensive sexual abuse scandal in sports history.
Stanley was chosen in an 8-0 vote by the school’s board of trustees, effective Aug. 1. He will take charge of a 50,000-student university that has been led by a string of acting or interim presidents since the January 2018 resignation of Lou Anna Simon, who quit amid fallout over former campus doctor Larry Nassar’s molestation of hundreds of female gymnasts and other athletes under the guise of treatment.
“Dr. Stanley is an empowering, compassionate and thoughtful leader, who will work tirelessly alongside our students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees and broader Spartan community to meet the challenges we face together and build our future,” said board chair Dianne Byrum, who also co-chaired the presidential search committee.
Since 2009, the 65-year-old Stanley has been president of the 26,000-student Stony Brook on Long Island, a part of the State University of New York. He previously was vice chancellor for research at Washington University in St. Louis, where he first did a fellowship in infectious diseases and became a professor. He earned his medical degree from Harvard and completed a residency in Boston.
Stanley pledged to meet with Nassar’s victims and their families and, noting his background as a physician, said the “terrible tragedy” was a “gross and incomprehensible betrayal of trust.”
“What happened at MSU will not be forgotten,” he said. “Instead it will drive us every day to work together to build a campus culture of transparency, awareness, sensitivity, respect and prevention. A safe campus is going to be key to all of our initiatives.”
He said he planned to live on campus and be visible within the Spartan community.
>>VIDEO: Dr. Stanley Jr. addresses MSU
Stanley will be the fourth man to lead the school since Simon stepped down. She now faces charges of lying to police about what she knew during an investigation into a sex assault allegation against Nassar, who also worked at USA Gymnastics and treated Olympians. The university’s former gymnastics coach and dean of the osteopathic medicine school also have been charged criminally.
Following Simon’s departure, board vice president and secretary Bill Beekman briefly served as acting president before the February 2018 hiring of former Michigan Gov. John Engler as interim president. He helped to broker a $500 million settlement with victims but was ousted in January , however, amid backlash over his comments about some of Nassar’s victims. Since then, the school has been led by acting president Satish Udpa, a university administrator.
Trustee Melanie Foster, who co-chaired the 18-person search committee, said Stanley is a “proven leader with the energy, integrity and compassion needed to lead our university.”
The school noted that Stanley is one of two U.S. university presidents to be designated as an “impact champion” by the United Nations’ “HeForShe” campaign, for making gender equality an institutional priority. He will be the first president of Michigan State without ties to the school since John DiBiaggio, who served from 1985-1992, and the first without ties to the state since M. Cecil Mackey, who led the school from 1979-1985.
>>VIDEO: Board of Trustees meeting
While there was resounding positivity from the MSU community regarding Stanley’s hiring, some continue to question the closed process that led to his selection.
Early on, the search committee held public listening sessions, but those ended in the fall when candidates began to be identified and the committee started to vet them. There was never a finalist list released ahead of Tuesday’s appointment.
“We’ve been closed out of the whole process,” MSU professor and Reclaim MSU member Anna Pegler-Gordon told 24 Hour News 8 after the meeting Tuesday. “So it doesn’t inspire confidence. Nothing about this process inspires confidence.”
She and the rest of Reclaim MSU believe trustees chose secrecy over transparency.
“The Board has appointed a president without the advice or consent of the MSU community as a whole. We are deeply disappointed… Dr. Stanley begins his leadership under a cloud of suspicion…,” a statement released by the groups reads in part.
“One of my colleagues said you typically don’t have to hold a press conference to emphasize how collaborative the process was if it was really collaborative,” Pegler-Gordon said, adding she wants to see Stanley initiate conversations with the community as soon as possible.
Stanley will make $800,000 a year over a five-year contract. He will be eligible for an annual performance bonus of up to 20%, or $160,000. The school will contribute an additional $100,000 a year to deferred compensation.
Michigan State has drawn scrutiny for mishandling past complaints against Nassar — dating as far back as 1997 — that allowed his abuse to continue until 2016 and also for mismanaging the fallout, including by hiring Engler. Nassar pleaded guilty in 2017 to sexually assaulting nine victims and possessing child pornography, and his sentences equate to life in prison.
—24 Hour News 8’s Lynsey Mukomel contributed to this report.