University of Wyoming Pres. Bob Sternberg resigns post after weeks of turmoil

2013-11-14T22:00:00Z 2014-07-05T18:59:11Z University of Wyoming Pres. Bob Sternberg resigns post after weeks of turmoilBy LEAH TODD Star Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online
November 14, 2013 10:00 pm  • 

Bob Sternberg stepped down from his post as the University of Wyoming president Thursday, only 137 days after taking the job July 1.

He told the Star-Tribune that after having a conversation with board of trustees President David Bostrom on Wednesday, he felt trustee support for his actions may have been waning after the resignations of three deans and five administrators.

“[I]t became obvious that things were not working out as I, or probably anyone else, had hoped for,” Sternberg wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune on Thursday. “I left [the conversation with Bostrom] feeling I most likely did not have full support from the board, and when you are president, you need their support.”

Sternberg said he did not want to create a situation where board members were forced to take a vote on his leadership.

“If one does not feel the complete confidence of the board, then the honorable thing to do is to resign, which I did,” he said.

University officials announced Sternberg’s resignation in a 5:30 p.m. press conference Thursday after an executive session of the board lasted for more than nine hours. Sternberg tendered his resignation late Wednesday, Bostrom said.

A crowd of students, faculty and media lined the rails in an open area of UW’s Coe Library to hear the announcement from a podium near the library’s help desk Thursday.

Three deans and five administrators have resigned their administrative posts since Sternberg arrived. Two of them were asked to resign because of differences in vision with university leadership; the others left for a variety of reasons.

Law dean reacts

The tide of turnover was capped most recently by an outspoken resignation from former College of Law Dean Steve Easton, who objected to Sternberg’s lack of consultation with the law school in his decision to assemble a task force to study the school’s performance in natural resource-related areas of law.

Easton said Thursday it was a sad, but necessary, day for UW.

“We had great hopes,” Easton said of Sternberg’s arrival on campus.

Sternberg replaced former UW President Tom Buchanan as the university’s 24th president with an annual base salary of $425,000. He was most recently provost at Oklahoma State University, and has held administrative and faculty positions at Yale University and Tufts University. He will cease presidential duties immediately, he told the Star-Tribune, though he will be on the books until Dec. 31. Under the terms of his departure, he will be paid $325,000 for the following year.

UW’s interim vice president for academic affairs, Dick McGinity, will begin performing the duties of the president immediately, according to a university release.

“The people that are in place now are a terrific team,” McGinity said Thursday. McGinity became the university’s interim vice president for academic affairs in September following former Provost Myron Allen’s resignation. He said Thursday the presidential task force to evaluate the College of Law was “not going to proceed at a rapid rate.”

“The leadership of the College of Law and I, and others, will address the subject of the task force for the College of Law,” McGinity said. “But it is not an immediate thing.”

Law students and former Dean Easton had suggested the task force delay its review until results of an ongoing American Bar Association accreditation are available.

Bostrom, the board of trustees president, said in a university release Thursday that the board was grateful for Sternberg’s service. The board’s No. 1 budget priority — raises for a faculty that has not seen a salary increase in four years — has not changed, Bostrom said.

“The board fully accepts and endorses the personnel changes and changes in direction at the university that have taken place in the last several months,” he said.

Gov. Matt Mead said in a statement he supported the trustees.

“I support the trustees and have confidence in their abilities to make decisions in the best interest of our university,” Mead said. “Given President Sternberg’s decision I believe the board of trustees has developed a good plan to move forward.”

The board has not yet formed a plan for a presidential search process, Bostrom said in a press conference Thursday. Whether the names of presidential candidates will be made public during the search process or kept private, as they were during the last presidential search amid Buchanan’s retirement announcement earlier this year, is yet to be determined, he said.

“This happened last night,” Bostrom said Thursday. “We have not had the opportunity to even have those discussions.”

Judith Ramaley, a senior scholar with the American Association of Colleges and Universities, said concern about the level of support from the university’s governing board plays a role in all early resignations.

But such sudden departures are not common, she said.

“It is rare for a President to step down prior to the end of his or her first year in office,” Ramaley wrote in an email to the Star-Tribune. “[B]ut it certainly has happened occasionally.”

Sternberg told the Star-Tribune editorial board in an interview Monday that he was doing exactly what the board of trustees hired him to do.

“I deeply regret things did not work out,” Sternberg said in an email to the Star-Tribune.

Star-Tribune sports reporter Mike Vorel contributed to this story.

Reach education reporter Leah Todd at 307-266-0592 or Follow her on Twitter @leahktodd.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(32) Comments

  1. emerald2650
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    emerald2650 - March 30, 2015 5:18 pm
    Maybe Ben Blalock helped force him out? I was told he had something to do with forcing out Tom Buchanan.
  2. Jackson
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    Jackson - November 19, 2013 10:04 pm
    All aboard! The train made it a ways down the track, but had to make an unscheduled stop. Unfortunately, the baggage didn't get lost in the process, and some folks will now be jockeying to spend more time recovering the baggage instead of getting a new wardrobe for UW. Easton will likely be at the front of the line. There is no evidence from his "supporters" that he did anything but throw an immature tantrum, as opposed to trying to work within his latitude to make things work out as good as he could have hoped for with Sternberg. The "sad" day is for UW, not because of Sternberg, but because of the entrenched mediocrity. Wake up folks! Sternberg could certainly have used some help in the communications arena, but he can't be blamed for our culture problems, and they are very real. And if you want to start at the top of the culture heap, Dave Bostrom is an okay guy, but he is not a dynamic leader. If he was, he would have coached Sternberg, not bailed on him after he set the boat adrift.
  3. Triple BB
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    Triple BB - November 19, 2013 12:49 pm
    With Sternberg gone, can we also get rid of head sports clown, Tom Burman and his useless side kick Dave Christensen???
  4. starlight
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    starlight - November 15, 2013 5:54 pm
    Anyone that thinks that Sternberg resigned should read the resignation agreement. It's clear that the University has the upper hand. Obviously, the Trustees had some information about him that could get him fired for cause. Faculty discontent had nothing to do with it (except maybe to bring attention to a potential problem)
  5. MedicineBow
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    MedicineBow - November 15, 2013 4:41 pm
    Easton is apparently going to stay, as a professor.

    But he chose to quit as Dean, rather than endure a committee to review the law school. Bridgeman will do fine as an interim dean, and then they can start seeking a new dean when the time is right.
  6. richstacy
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    richstacy - November 15, 2013 3:29 pm
    Sternberg did not fit at UW, He had a dictatorial style and a lack of common courteous social graces. Steve Easton should be asked to stay, he is an asset to UW, to the Law School and to Wyoming.
  7. Don Wills
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    Don Wills - November 15, 2013 2:39 pm
    Actually, an AP story written by Bob Moen said that UW will be making payments to Sternberg totaling $750,000 for six months of employment. And then there's a few hundred thousand cost for the next search...
  8. Uinta
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    Uinta - November 15, 2013 1:55 pm
    Losing Myron Allen was a tragedy for the University. Someone made a huge mistake in asking for his resignation. The Board of Trustees stated that the Board "accepts and endorses the personnel changes that have taken place in the past few months." I wonder if we'll ever know if the Board actually ordered that action. If they did, they need to be replaced.
  9. CareyMitchell
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    CareyMitchell - November 15, 2013 1:44 pm
    You are wildly underselling it. Don't forget the final year of buchannan's contract, his sabbatical year, where he was paid his full salary to "rengage" in teaching, owing zero deliverables to the State or needing to show up to work a single day. In other words, we have had two presidents on the payroll this year.
  10. rer5279
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    rer5279 - November 15, 2013 12:13 pm
    I have a couple of questions....1. As a UW graduate student, is my potential degree worth less (or worthless) coming from an institution in chaos? and 2. How do we recall, or otherwise un-seat, the incompetent Board of Trustees?
  11. pappy
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    pappy - November 15, 2013 11:55 am
    This whole discussion should be about Sternberg and what he did or didn't do it should be about the Board of Trustees. They did the hiring and the firing, and at least according to Stenberg's and Bostrum's statement provided the direction he was to go in. This is no different than firing the defensive coordinator mid season to save the coach and athlete director. The Board of Trustees are responsible for this mess and should be held accountable for it. Shouldn't the Board be providing the students, faculty, and more importantly the people of Wyoming with what direction the Board intends to take the University and I don't mean just a motherhood and apple pie statement from the Board President. I would like to know what they see as issues and how they feel they should be addressed. Let's not forget this whole mess started with boards secret search for a new president and continued on with their secret direction to the new President.
  12. elam
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    elam - November 15, 2013 10:03 am
    In thinking this over and reading the board's comment of: "The board full accepts and endorses the personnel changes and changes in the direction at the University that have taken place in the last several months..." I am now of the opinion that Sternberg was acting on their behalf and he ended up taking a bullet for them. Now almost all the faculty and staff at U.W are gleeful, are wearing brown and gold, and are praising the board, meaning the trustees can continue on with their agenda while we smile and pretend everything is okay. In the end we're still a bunch of sheep, although we may believe we did something amazing...The wolves are still with us in sheep's clothing.
  13. griz
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    griz - November 15, 2013 9:21 am
    It's absolutely true. This is Wyoming and we don't care what left wingnut minion factory you come from.

    Go contaminate brains on the west coast.
  14. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - November 15, 2013 9:05 am
    um, UW Student, I think Sternberg was waiting on data and input from everyone on campus but, some elected to throw fits of rage, instead. The consistent story was from the CSA report that, Wyoming has the "good enough is, good enough" mentality to confront.
    That's as consistent as Sternberg could get, without making up directives that may not exist. As the powers-to-be had issues with accountability through evaluation. And since the Trustees apparently chose sides by, ignoring the CSA report and most-likely asked Sternberg not to pursue this.
    I'm sure that's what led to Sternberg's resignation as reported, was the lack of Trustee support as verses Sternberg's subordinates complaints. No private company that I know of micromanages its affairs without major issues.
    Authority must be stream-lined for each leader by ranks, not by who's-who or an element of the powers-to-be. Otherwise, you're paying people unnecessarily and in this case here, Wyoming tax payers are playing for the mind-game minded.
  15. UW Student
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    UW Student - November 15, 2013 8:27 am
    Sternberg never told a consistent story about what the task force's purpose was, who would be on it, or why he organized it in the first place. No one has any problem with evaluations - they happen all the time. Sternberg either didn't know how to go about evaluating programs without making everyone resign, or his intention was never evaluation in the first place.

    So yes - thank god that crisis was averted.
  16. concretesequential
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    concretesequential - November 15, 2013 8:20 am
    Right on!
  17. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - November 15, 2013 8:03 am
    Well put Cody, any new prospective search will cause a decent potential recruit to shy away, from lack of support, the Trustees displayed. So bad that a President's support can be yanked out from underneath the next President? I wouldn't think anyone would want to lead a University without proper support.
  18. deer and antelope roam
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    deer and antelope roam - November 15, 2013 7:58 am
    137 days in office.
    Approx. $212K in salary from July 1-Dec. 31st
    $345K in salary for 2014
    Essentially Steinberg’s rein cost UW and the state of Wyoming $3919 for each day he was in the office. Students, pay attention, and use this example of poor financial stewardship as you confront the issue of increased tuition and student fees. Those making the decisions are being far too frivolous with students and taxpayers’ hard earned money.
  19. Cody Coyote
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    Cody Coyote - November 15, 2013 7:42 am
    Looks like our giant cruise liner the S.S. Cowboy Joe rammed into a sternberg

    So tell me, gurus of the High Plains at Wyoming's only 4-year school and politically appointed good old boy Regents...why would ANYONE want to head UW after this ?

    Good luck with your search for a new Prez. The environment is toxic now...
  20. Dustin Huffman
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    Dustin Huffman - November 15, 2013 7:40 am
    This was to be expected. Sternberg is not a Wyoming Native and clearly has never seen one of the most popular bumper stickers here in Wyoming: "We don't care where you are from or how you did it back home." The state of Wyoming wants nothing to do with creative change, intelligent change, or for that matter, change of any sort at all. Unless, of course, it serves the oil and gas industry or originates in ALEC. Which gives me an idea. Maybe the Board of Trustees should appoint Hank Coe or Matt Teeters as the next UW Pres; they seem to know everything there is to know about education, despite never having been in a classroom in their lives...
  21. Common Sense
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    Common Sense - November 15, 2013 7:39 am
    He didn't resign. He was fired. Maybe the trustees will figure out that a public process for hiring the President of a public university is not a luxury, it's a requirement. And...oh yeah....perhaps they will do their homework in the vetting process this time.
  22. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - November 15, 2013 7:33 am
    I guess CareyMitchell, those of us that are Wyoming fans can continue "dreaming of a conference champ" while realizing a "conference chump". Cause of a sick school that is addicted to tax payer money and "good enough, is good enough", both on and off the field and court.
    So when Dave Walsh and Kevin tell those of us living hours away from there, Dave and Kevin should redress their invites to the powers-to-be for that support. As the Trustees and the School Leadership own that purposely desired damage.
    I can't see those (outside of Laramie) that want to support UW teams representing Wyomingites, when they only represent a certain few. As far as I'm concerned, Wyoming has no college football team representing me, while the powers-to-be remain.
  23. CareyMitchell
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    CareyMitchell - November 15, 2013 7:13 am
    Easton was amazing. He had your law school ranked mid third tier and in the top 200! Great job. That darn Sternberg was trying to do it how they do at Yale, who is ranked #1-2 for 50 years. That would have been disastrous to do it the Yale way with vision and accountability. Who wants a high ranking school, great jobs or any if that. Not UW!
  24. jackel
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    jackel - November 15, 2013 7:04 am
    What a shame for Wyoming and the man hired for just 137 days. I seem to remember how quite this process was in the beginning and once again the appointment begins. Just goes to prove that the Wyoming people are served by the few being the Board of Trustees. In the arguements of the past few weeks, we heard a winning spirit, working towards accountability, looking inside Wyoming for recruitment and stagnation.
    Well it is time to look inside Wyoming for the next president, and not at the University. Maybe the president of Casper college, Western College, Laramie Community College, for these people know Wyoming in a division 2 School, or Chardon Nebraska, or Colorado.
    One thing is for sure, it is put up for the board and openess in the selection, or the pokes become jokes.
  25. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - November 15, 2013 6:50 am
    Yup Sassy, well put.
    Wyoming had a chance to correct itself and self image but, elected to throw out the proverbial "baby with the bath water" in this one. I was wondering if the Trustees had the nerve to go though with a much needed powers-to-be house cleaning.
    But in retrospect, its apparent that you can not "trust" these so called "trustees" of the University. Meantime the tax payer gets hosed and the athletic programs play sick cause of their affiliation. And the advise from the CSA is dismissed as too embarrassing to deal with, just as Sternberg said might happen.
  26. Laramie Man
    Report Abuse
    Laramie Man - November 15, 2013 6:42 am
    The problem with Sternberg wasn't necessarily with his overarching policies or ideas. The man completely lacked any kind of filter, social graces, restraint or common sense. On top of that he was a nasty egocentric guy, of which there were ample examples over the past four months. I take him at his word that he initially had the support of the Trustees to make changes and generate turn over, and that's not necessarily a bad thing if done intelligently and with tact. Sternberg was a colossal mistake, but he wasn't and isn't the problem. The Trustees have now botched two searches and look like a bunch of total no-nothings. That have not owned their mistakes by any means and simply attempted to smooth things over in a less than satisfying and honest way yesterday. They should be the next to go.
  27. MountainMan
    Report Abuse
    MountainMan - November 15, 2013 6:14 am
    Amen Never vote for any attorney for office.
  28. Cash
    Report Abuse
    Cash - November 15, 2013 5:36 am
    The cst and it's most ignorant commentators blaming Steve Easton must believe all this is Obamas fault too . Easton
    brought real quality to law school education and training. But we can't have any of that by god, your readers demand mediocrity,
    Maybe we can hire Halliburton to run the university.
  29. CareyMitchell
    Report Abuse
    CareyMitchell - November 15, 2013 5:30 am
    You're right. I'm sure students and teachers will sit around for years and tell ghost stories about the boogey man from Oklahoma who nearly created a task force with students and teachers that would recommend improvements to the school. Boo! Thank god that crisis was averted.

    At least UW can get back to keeping their head down and plodding along with little vision or accountability, so everyone can be comfortable and stay in a third tier ranking... That was a close one!
  30. Sassy
    Report Abuse
    Sassy - November 15, 2013 1:12 am
    Sternberg didnt want to play thier silly head games any longer.

    It is time for Wyoming to fire each and every attorney in elected public office. Enough is enough
  31. UW Student
    Report Abuse
    UW Student - November 15, 2013 1:07 am
    You have no idea what you're talking about. Easton is an asset that UW can't afford to lose. You can call him "unprofessional" for confronting Sternberg at the town hall, but he was never dishonest to his students or the UW community. He stood up to Sternberg when he easily could have just kept his head down and gone along with the changes. Easton is the kind of leader that UW needs around and he's the kind of professor that should be teaching students how to become attorneys and advocates.

    There is a school full of students and faculty who trust and respect Easton because he has worked tirelessly to earn that trust and respect. Don't come on here and judge him and his motivations so quickly.
  32. CareyMitchell
    Report Abuse
    CareyMitchell - November 15, 2013 12:45 am
    Easton's crocodile tears for Sternberg are magnificent. It's good to see he is "sad" to have this outcome (which he drove to this conclusion full force and in an unprofessional manner). Hopefully Easton too will do the honorable thing and leave UW so folks can move on without him continuing to poison the other students and faculty. But we all know today he'll begin lobbying for his old Dean post back from the interim president, some martyr Easton is...
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