West Virginia University named today as its interim president C. Peter Magrath, a veteran leader in public higher education and president emeritus of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. Mr. Magrath, who is 75, has previously led four public universities, including long runs at the University of Missouri system and the University of Minnesota.
Also today, West Virginia University’s Board of Governors elected new officers and swore in three new members, including Charles M. Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a West Virginia alumnus. Mr. Magrath begins his transition with the departing president, Michael S. Garrison, next week. The terms of Mr. Garrison’s severance agreement have not been finalized, according to a university official, who said Mr. Garrison would assist in the transition as a consultant.
The arrival of respected leaders such as Mr. Magrath and Mr. Vest is likely to be viewed as a successful step in the university’s efforts to move past a degree scandal that has dominated headlines in West Virginia since late last year, heightening questions that had followed the selection of Mr. Garrison, a former lobbyist, as president. Mountaineers for Integrity and Responsibility, a faculty-led group, praised both the board’s “outstanding choice” of an interim president and its newly elected officers.
However, the university continues to face challenges. A university spokeswoman confirmed to the Associated Press today that the West Virginia Ethics Commission had made preliminary inquiries about the university’s scandal-triggering decision to retroactively grant an unearned degree to the daughter of West Virginia’s governor.
While Mr. Magrath in a written statement acknowledged “bumps along the road” at West Virginia, he also said the university was a prestigious and great land-grant institution. “I’m all fired up and I’m ready to go,” he said during a news conference. —Paul Fain