Tompkins fired

12-year term ends; Mroz named MTU’s interim president

The Daily Mining Gazette
March 27, 2004

HOUGHTON — The Michigan Tech University Board of Control fired President Curt Tompkins Friday, ending his 12-year term as MTU’s eighth president.

The board, meeting in Chicago, unanimously terminated Tompkins’ contract, effective immediately. Glenn Mroz, dean of the forestry and technology schools, was named interim president.

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Chairman David Brule said the board’s action was driven by Tompkins’ March 16 request to begin a leadership transition. The board discussed the matter behind closed doors for nearly three hours before voting in open session.

Brule said the board decided after considerable deliberation that “it was in the best interests of all parties to move ahead quickly ...”

Tompkins said Brule told him a week and half ago to, based on circumstances, start the transition process. Tompkins previously indicated to the board that he would step aside when members asked him to.

“The Board of Control leadership indicated to me that they felt it was time to start the process,” Tompkins said by telephone.

In recent months, Tompkins came under fire. He lost a faculty and staff no-confidence vote in December and his administration was criticized for its handling of Tech’s ongoing financial woes including a $9 million general fund deficit, $6.2 million tuition miscalculation announced in December and unpopular budget cuts to account for state funding cutbacks.

Tompkins said he “always have and always will” work for Tech’s best interests.

The board’s action Friday to fire Tompkins caught him off guard because he wanted to help the transition to the interim president and oversee the budget process for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“I didn’t expect it would be quite this soon, because I had indicated that I would be willing to work through the end of June,” he said.

However, Tompkins said the point was raised that the interim president could serve for more than a year and should lead the budget process.

Tompkins said he wished he had time to finish receiving the major gifts for Tech’s next capital fund-raising campaign and to balance next year’s budget.

“I think we could have basically removed the negative balance in the general fund,” he said.

But Tompkins said he feels good about the transition primarily because Mroz will temporarily take over.

“It’s going to work well,” Tompkins said. “I take great comfort in the fact that Glenn is effectively the president of the university.”

Brule said the board recognizes the need to keep the campus operating.

“We recognize that things need to happen on campus so we wanted to put someone in place quickly,” he said.

Tompkins’ current contract would have continued through 2007 with an annual salary of $210,000. After terminating Tompkins’ contract, the board recognized his accomplishments in a resolution and afforded him president emeritus status.

With the board’s decision, Tompkins said he finds himself with an opportunity to consider his options.

“At this moment, I would say all the options are open,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in this position before.”

Tompkins’ immediate plans include serving as chief development officer for the Pine Mountain Music Festival where his wife Kathy serves as executive director.

“It should be fun,” he said. “We’ll drive each other crazy, probably.”

One of Tompkins’ fondest memories from his 12 years at Tech is being inducted as an honorary member of the MTU Pep Band’s trombone section. He joined the trombone section which played on the ice at Winter Carnival in February 2003.

“I actually got to play the Hokey Pokey on the ice before 5,000 people hoping that I would fall ...” he said jokingly.

The transition

The board Friday started the process of searching for a new leader. Board Secretary Dale Tahtinen, Tech’s vice president for governmental relations, said the board will move quickly, but noted searches “take time,” often up to a year or more.

Board members Rodger Kershner, Katherine Clark, Norman Rautiola and Claude Verbal were named to a committee which will develop a search committee.

A committee to recommend a search company includes Ruth Reck, David Brule and Mike Henricksen.

Board members were expected to discuss the transition at their May 7 board meeting.

In the meantime, Mroz will lead the campus. Brule said the board has confidence in his leadership during the transition.

“Glenn is going to hit the ground running from a planning perspective,” Brule said, noting Mroz was chosen from a list of candidates based on his qualifications and plans for leading Tech in the next year.

Brule declined to identify other candidates under consideration for interim president.
Reck said some may wonder why Provost Kent Wray, also senior vice president, wasn’t picked to run the university temporarily. She said the board needed his steady leadership as provost.

“He holds the university together in my viewpoint,” Reck said.

During the transition period, Mroz said it’s important to help attract qualified presidential candidates and listen to the campus community.

“Clearly my challenge at this point is to bring people together ...” Mroz said.

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