MSU Interim President John Engler resigning


EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A year after taking over as Michigan State University’s interim president, former Michigan governor John Engler has resigned.

On Wednesday, Engler said in an 11-page letter to MSU Board of Trustees Chair Dianne Byrum that he would quit effective 9 a.m. Jan. 23.

“You have advised me that five Democratic members of the MSU Board, including yourself, have requested my resignation as MSU President,” the letter (PDF) begins, noting that Democrats hold a majority on the board following November’s election. Engler is a Republican.

Byrum had called a special meeting for Thursday morning to address Engler’s conduct.

His letter does not appologize for recent controversial comments he made about some survivors of sexual abuse by former sports doctor Larry Nassar.

About nine of the pages list what Engler describes as highlights of his time at MSU, including but not limited to handling of the Nassar scandal and the subsequent lawsuit filed by survivors.

“The bottom line is that MSU is a dramatically better, stronger institution than it was one year ago,” Engler wrote. “…I am proud to have a key role in preparing my school to welcome a new President who will have the opportunity to take us to new heights.”

He said he did not seek out the interim president job, but took it because he wanted to “assist the university that I love.” He said his goal was to stabilize the situation.

“It has been an honor to serve my beloved university,” the letter concludes.

On MSU campus Wednesday night, students seemed to welcome the news of Engler’s ouster.

“We really do need change around here,” student Jake Heronema said.

“He’s said some wild stuff that really no one here agrees with,” another student, Craig Smith, said.

Engler came under fire most recently for comments he made last week to The Detroit News editorial board, one of those statements alluding to survivors of Nassar’s sexual abuse enjoying public attention:

“You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been… there are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight,” Engler said. “In some ways, they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.”

MSU Trustee Brian Mosallam told the Associated Press Wednesday that if Engler didn’t resign, the board was going to vote to remove him

Efforts to oust Engler failed in June. Since then, the board added three new trustees who have voiced public disagreement with at least one of Engler’s decisions. Trustees Brianna Scott, Kelly Tebay and Nancy Schlichting signed an online petition to reinstate the Healing Assistance Fund Engler closed in December. Byrum and Mosallam added their names to the growing list of signatures, meaning a majority of the new board publicly disagreed with Engler’s move. The MSU Board voted last week to create a new fund for Nassar survivors.

Engler’s comments to The Detroit News and move to close the fund aren’t the only decisions he’s made that have drawn the ire of others:

  • Jan. 31, 2018: Michigan State University announces John Engler as its interim president. Upset faculty and students say they weren’t consulted before the decision was made.
  • Feb. 13, 2018: The MSU faculty senate holds a vote of no confidence in trustees, partly over Engler’s appointment.
  • March 15, 2018: Criticized over his stance on Nassar-inspired legislation, Engler says he wants to reach a financial settlement with victims by May, but the passage of sweeping child abuse legislation is interfering with the process and could lead to higher tuition.
  • April 13, 2018: Nassar survivor Kaylee Lorincz says Engler offered her $250,000 during a March 28, 2018, meeting that took place with her and her mother.
  • May 17, 2018: When pressed on how MSU will pay the $500 million settlement with survivors of Nassar’s abuse, Engler joked, “Actually, what we’re hoping to use is find a leprechaun.”
  • June 13, 2018: Emails Engler sent in April are released. The messages accuse Nassar trial lawyers of manipulating Nassar survivors, and claims Kalamazoo native Rachael Denhollander will is likely to get kickback from (attorney John) Manley (sic) for her role in the trial lawyer manipulation.”
  • June 21, 2018: Engler apologizes for email statements, but says he won’t resign
  • June 22, 2018: Mosallam’s effort to oust Engler fails by a 6-2 vote. Mosallam and Byrum are the only trustees who vote in favor of firing him.
  • July 5, 2018: Engler defends his role at MSU and says he has no plans to resign in a one-on-one interview with 24 Hour News 8’s Lynsey Mukomel.
  • Dec. 5, 2018: Engler closes the Healing Assistance Fund after the university freezed it in July to investigate fraud claims. Engler says the  remaining $8.5 million will be transferred to the settlement fund.

Thursday’s meeting at MSU will be held as scheduled and the transition will be discussed. Engler will not be there. His resignation letter said he was in San Antonio for a funeral for his wife’s father.

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