Ladner removed as president
Photo by Jeff Watts
Thomas Gottschalk, acting chair of the Board of Trustees, announces the removal of Benjamin Ladner as president Monday.
The Board of Trustees announced Monday that Benjamin Ladner will not return to the university as president, a position he held for the past 11 years. Neil Kerwin, who was named acting president when Ladner was placed on administrative leave Aug. 24 in the midst of an investigation into his spending, will continue in that role while a national search for a new president is conducted.
“Dr. Ladner led the university during a period when much success was realized,” said Thomas Gottschalk, acting chair of the board. “Under the circumstances we find today, the board felt that Dr. Ladner needed to be replaced as president.”
Kerwin, an AU graduate, professor, dean, and provost, has been an influence on campus for more than three decades. He pledged Monday that the school will continue moving forward with its focus on education.
“With the board decision on the presidency having been made, the American University community will move on with renewed commitment and focus on our education mission,” Kerwin said. “The way that our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends responded to these issues between the board and the president proved that our values are intact, principles are strong, and campus voices are heard on matters of significance. The recent events also have prompted close scrutiny of American University. A theme repeated again and again in news media reports was that AU has reached new levels of achievement. These new levels of excellence result from the efforts and dedication of many people who have been or are part of this great university. That work and the resultant progress will continue, unfettered.”
The board launched an investigation earlier this year into the personal and travel expenditures of Ladner and his wife, Nancy, after receiving an anonymous letter alleging wrongdoing. The controversy attracted media attention and sparked passions among alumni, faculty, and students on campus.
“I think the students are pleased with the decision,” said Kyle Taylor, president of AU’s Student Government. “It was the right decision, and I think we’re all looking forward.”
During a special meeting last month, the Faculty Senate unanimously called for Ladner’s removal.
“The board has been very open to our thoughts,” said CAS professor Tony Ahrens, chair of the Faculty Senate. “They have demonstrated great dedication to AU. I respect the work they have done.”
Gottschalk also announced the creation of board committees to search for replacements for Ladner and Leslie Bains, who resigned as board chair on Sunday. A third committee will explore reforms within the board itself, which next meets Nov. 11.
“There is a sense of shared responsibility for allowing this situation to develop as it has,” Gottschalk said. “[We will] look hard at our own processes.”
Gottschalk declined to get into the specifics of the board’s deliberations, saying only that the all-day meeting was “respectful.” After concluding the executive session, the board met with the deans, faculty, and student representatives before holding an 8:30 p.m. press conference at SIS.
The board accepted the findings of an audit committee that has asked Ladner to reimburse the university $125,000 for purchases he made from 2002 to 2005 and to pay taxes on an additional $398,000 from that time period, Gottschalk said. But no decisions were made regarding whether Ladner would remain on faculty at the university, when he will leave the official residence, or what if any severance package he will receive. Gottschalk called that a private personnel matter.
Vanessa Onorevole, an SIS graduate student, hovered outside the Butler Board Room while Ladner’s fate was decided Monday.
“It doesn’t seem right that if someone took money we should add more money to get rid of him,” she said. “It seems like a double whammy.”