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ISU President Terri Goss Kinzy resigns less than 2 years on the job

Terri Goss Kinzy took over in May 2021 from a retiring Larry Dietz, becoming ISU’s first female president.

NORMAL — Illinois State University President Terri Goss Kinzy has resigned after less than two years on the job.

The surprise announcement came Wednesday afternoon in an email to campus. Kinzy’s resignation is effective Tuesday, but she’ll be paid an additional 20 weeks of salary (about $144,000) and her unused vacation time, plus get to continue living in the University Residence for up to four months, according to the terms of her separation agreement.

No reason was given for Kinzy’s abrupt resignation. Her separation agreement said only that ISU’s Board of Trustees and Kinzy had “agreed to amicably end” her employment.

The separation agreement also limits what Kinzy and the Board of Trustees can say publicly about her resignation. It allows for the distribution of a “mutually agreed press release” – which happened Wednesday – and that both parties “agree that other than (the press release), the parties will not issue further public comments regarding Dr. Kinzy’s separation from employment.”

“It has been an honor to serve the Illinois State University community as its 20th President. I have enjoyed the opportunity to engage with Illinois State students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends and being a part of this thriving academic community. At this time, I intend to pursue other opportunities,” Kinzy said in a statement.

ISU’s Board of Trustees will meet Friday and is expected to appoint Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Aondover Tarhule as interim president. He’ll serve in that role through June 2024. Information regarding a presidential search will be provided by the Board of Trustees later.

Churn and vacancies on the Board of Trustees

There have been a lot of vacancies and churn on the Board of Trustees as of late, including the appointment of two new members just last week. The Board of Trustees was forced to abruptly postpone a meeting last summer because it didn’t have enough members for quorum. Another trustee, Anthony Byrd, resigned after just one meeting. Trustee Kathy Bohn’s term expired in January.

An ISU spokesperson said Wednesday that “the Board (of Trustees) will have a quorum for business on Friday. Even though (trustee) Kathy Bohn’s term officially expired in January, she will still be able to serve as a trustee for Friday’s meeting. The two new members can also be seated and sworn in to serve before official Senate confirmation.”

There are two other vacancies on the board. WGLT asked the governor’s office why there remain so many vacancies.

“Last Friday, two highly qualified individuals, Lia Merminga and Scott Jenkins, were appointed to fill vacancies on the Illinois State University Board of Trustees,” said Pritzker spokesperson Alex Gough. “Governor Pritzker is committed to maintaining that standard by identifying high quality individuals to serve on the board’s vacant positions and he looks forward to making the necessary appointments in the near future.”

Kinzy’s brief tenure

Kinzy, a longtime educator and scientist, came to ISU after serving as vice president for research and innovation at Western Michigan University. Kinzy took over at ISU in May 2021 from a retiring Larry Dietz, becoming ISU’s first female president. Her four-year contract called for a $375,000 salary.

Kinzy’s brief tenure included progress toward ISU’s new equity-oriented College of Engineering, which won approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education last March. Also on Kinzy’s watch, ISU reached its first contract with its graduate workers union after prolonged negotiations, although the union is gearing up now for its second contract campaign. ISU’s new Multicultural Center also opened during Kinzy’s tenure, though it was long in the works. Kinzy herself faced some criticism for her administration’s response to anti-LGBTQIA+ incidents last year.

“On behalf of the Board, we would like to thank Dr. Kinzy for her contributions during her time as President and wish her continued success in her next endeavor,” Kathy Bohn, secretary of ISU’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement.

ISU Athletics Kyle Brennan, who earned a contract extension from Kinzy, called it a “sad day for ISU Redbirds.”

“Dr. Kinzy was the most supportive President I’ve been around and she will be greatly missed by our coaches, staff and probably most of all by our student-athletes. Thank you for a job well done and we all wish you the best,” Brennan tweeted.

Redbird men’s basketball coach Ryan Pedon, who was hired last year on Kinzy’s watch, said he was thankful for the support his family received from Kinzy and her husband, Scott.

“They hold a special place in our heart. They gave us an opportunity here, at an institution that we’re very proud to be a part of,” Pedon said, according to the ISU student media outlet The Vidette. “I was obviously surprised like everyone else. I just know how much she meant to us.”

Patrick Walsh, the president of ISU’s Student Government Association who is set to graduate this semester, said Wednesday that he didn’t know much about the resignation, but offered his thanks to Kinzy and looked to the future.

“I want to thank her for her service to our university community and additionally, the mentorship that she provided to me in my role as student body president. Of course, I wish her the best as she moves on into her new opportunities,” he said. “Additionally, I do look forward to working with our-soon-to-be, or likely to be, interim president Dr. Aondover Tarhule as he graciously fills the current vacancy. … I’m also eager to work with the Board of Trustees as the process for selecting a new university president begins.”

ISU Academic Senate Chair Martha Horst declined to make a statement Wednesday and said the Campus Communication Committee will present one at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Tarhule would be the sixth person to serve as ISU’s president or interim president in the past decade.

Al Bowman retired in 2013. He was briefly succeeded by interim president Sheri Noren Everts during a transition period, then by the rocky seven-month tenure of Tim Flanagan. Flanagan resigned in 2014 – and reportedly received a $480,000 buyout – after an altercation with a university employee. He was succeeded by Larry Dietz, who served until 2021 when Kinzy was hired. Tarhule would be No. 6.

WGLT is part of ISU’s School of Communication and receives university support.

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