Tuesday, in a special meeting of Michigan State University’s presidential search committee, MSU selected researcher and educator Samuel L. Stanley Jr. to be their new university president. He was appointed in a unanimous vote by the MSU school board.
“This is an exciting and challenging opportunity, and I look forward to connecting with the entire MSU community as we take this journey together,” Stanley said in an introductory video.
Stanley has been in higher education leadership for nearly 15 years and has served as President of Stony Brook University in New York since 2009. Stanley said he is excited to learn more about MSU and work with the campus community to continue improving the university.
MSU has been through three presidents since January 2018. After former MSU and USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was found guilty of sexual assault following over 260 allegations from his former patients, MSU’s former President Lou Anna Simon resigned under allegations of involvement in a cover-up.
MSU replaced Simon with Former Michigan Governor John Engler. Engler was controversially chosen to be president for his political savvy, according to an MLive interview with Michigan Republican Party chairman Ron Weiser.
“Governor Engler is an excellent choice to lead MSU in this difficult time,” Weiser said in January. “Both his pride for his alma mater and his reputation as a reformer will serve this great institution well as they seek to right the ship.”
Engler’s appointment sparked discontent on campus, and he was eventually pushed to resign over a comment he made to the Detroit News concerning Nassar’s victims the public and board trustees deemed insensitive.
“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.”
Satish Udpa, MSU’s executive vice president for administrative services, was named interim president as Engler’s replacement. Stanley will take over the position August 1, 2019.
“I'm so excited about the trajectory you are on,” Stanley said at the board meeting. “At the same time, I see a community … that needed healing. I want to meet with the survivors and hear their voices and thoughts. What happened at MSU will not be forgotten. Instead, it will drive everything we do.”
Mary Finn, director and professor in the MSU School of Criminal Justice, sat on the presidential search committee as a representative of the university’s faculty. In the meeting, Finn expressed she appreciated Stanley’s background in biomedical research. As a land-grant university, he said MSU’s expertise strongly aligns with Stanley’s.
“He understands academia and its values, has spent his entire career in academia as a faculty member and then assumed very impressive leadership roles,” Finn said.
Stanley told the board he anticipates innovative work like a “drive to integrate arts into (MSU’s) land-grant mission” and further development of “a campus-wide plan for diversity, inclusion and equity.”
MSU trustee Melanie Foster, co-chair of presidential search committee, told MSU Today she is satisfied with the committee’s choice.
“Dr. Stanley’s entire career, as both a researcher and leader, embodies a commitment to all aspects of academic excellence and demonstrates his assurance that students are at the center of his mission,” Foster said. “We set out to find a proven leader with the energy, integrity and compassion needed to lead our university, and we found one.”
Tuesday’s public board meeting was the first public announcement regarding the presidential search, which was conducted entirely in private.