Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon resigned on Wednesday evening, confirming it in a letter addressed to MSU's Board of Trustees that was posted on MSU's website.
"The last year and a half has been very difficult for the victims of Larry Nassar, for the university community, and for me personally," Simon said. "To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment. I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere."
Simon's resignation came hours after the former MSU doctor was sentenced in Ingham County Circuit Court to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexual assault. At the sentencing hearing, 156 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Nassar gave victim-impact statements.
"I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now," Simon wrote in her letter to the board. "Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement."
The university posted a statement from board Chairman Brian Breslin saying the trustees accepted Simon's resignation.
Trustee Brian Mosallam said in a statement late Wednesday night that the university has "a long road ahead to repair the damage that has already been done."
Mosallam said the respect and admiration he has for all of Nassar's victims who came forward "will stay with me the rest of my life."
"Because of your example," he said, "I am faithful that we too, together, will be able to overcome this stain on our university."
News of Simon's resignation was encouraging for Lindsey Lemke, a former MSU gymnast. She said in court last week that she was sexually assaulted by Nassar and that university officials, including Simon, could have prevented it.
"Obviously, I think it is a great step in the healing process for all of the survivors," Lemke said Wednesday in a statement. "As a current student at MSU, I am excited and hopeful they will choose a fitting person for her position, one who cares about our stories and one who is willing to actually take the correct steps in handling the situation, something Simon could never do and never would have done."
Former Lansing Mayor David Hollister, a friend of Simon's for over 30 years, said he's saddened by the news and the Nassar case and said Simon's resignation has "massive ramifications."
“I think there will be a period of reflection and deep soul searching of what went wrong and how (MSU) might correct it," Hollister said. "They can never fix it, but they can address it."
Hollister added MSU's leadership will remain under fire indefinitely because of the Nassar case, especially during this election year.
"I think this whole question of the legitimacy of the trustees will be litigated politically," Hollister said. "People will challenge the incumbents, and I think it will be a very painful period. There are terrible costs associated with it.”
Trustee Melanie Foster, asked about naming an interim president, said: “I think we need someone that can be instrumental in the healing process and a visionary for the future.”
Foster said she wouldn't be surprised if Mark Murray, former Grand Valley State University president, is one of the names discussed at Friday's meeting as a potential candidate for interim president.
"I'm not ready to speculate," said Foster, when asked for names of other potential candidates. "There are several names that have been circulated. On Friday, I'm anticipating we will form a board committee to expedite a search."
Jennifer Granholm, Michigan's governor from 2003 to 2011, posted on Twitter that she knows Simon to be "a good person," but emphasized the resignation is what's best for MSU.
"A fresh start with extreme clarity is in order," Granholm said.
While I know LouAnna Simon at @michiganstateu to be a good person, for the good of the university she is very much doing the right thing in stepping down. A fresh start with extreme clarity is in order.— Jennifer Granholm (@JenGranholm) January 25, 2018
State House Speaker Tom Leonard said in a statement he's "glad Simon finally did the right thing." He called for Simon to step down on Dec. 11 and said state legislators should consider withholding funding from MSU because of officials' alleged role in the Nassar case.
"The university's response to this crisis simply hasn't been good enough," Leonard said in a statement Wednesday night, "and I hope that changes going forward for the sake of both the victims and the entire Michigan State University community."
Sue Carter, an MSU journalism professor, resigned Wednesday as the faculty athletic representative and chair of the university's Athletic Council because, she said, she disagreed with the university's "ineffective response" to the Nassar scandal.
"Part of me feels relieved that we can finally have the opportunity to move forward and part of me feels sad because it involves people I have known and worked with for a long time," she said, describing Simon as a friendly colleague. "And yet the institution is much larger than all of us."
As turmoil grew within MSU's ranks over the past week, several student groups became more outspoken about Simon.
And many, including Associated Students of Michigan State University, MSU's student government, demanded her resignation.
Lorenzo Santavicca, ASMSU's president, thanked Simon for her leadership and expressed hope for a fresh start that empowers and engages the student population.
“One of the key roles is how to include the student voice in decisions moving forward," Santavicca said.
Only four Michigan State University presidents served longer than Simon and perhaps only John Hannah has left a deeper mark on the institution.
During her 13 years leading MSU, the university won a long-shot bid to design and build the $730 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and opened a new medical school campus in Grand Rapids.
It built the Zaha Hadid-designed Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum and research buildings dedicated to bioengineering, nursing and molecular plant sciences.
It renovated residence halls and dining halls and remade its dining system top to bottom.
Its enrollment crossed the 50,000-student mark, and its endowment crossed the $2 billion mark.
There were missteps: A campus in Dubai that opened in 2008 and shut down most of its academic programs suddenly in 2010, a Title IX investigation that found the university had mishandled sexual assault complaints.
And the fact that Larry Nassar was able to sexually assault patients on campus for years and that too few heeded the warning signs, or believed the victims, until it was too late.
Simon was the first woman to lead MSU.
President Simon's resignation letter
Members of the Board of Trustees:
"The last year and a half has been very difficult for the victims of Larry Nassar, for the university community, and for me personally. To the survivors, I can never say enough that I am so sorry that a trusted, renowned physician was really such an evil, evil person who inflicted such harm under the guise of medical treatment. I know that we all share the same resolve to do whatever it takes to avert such tragedies here and elsewhere.
"As you and many in the Spartan family know, I planned to retire in December 2016, and we had begun a conversation about a smooth transition. Then the Indianapolis Star article appeared about USAG and one of the victims contacted MSU police to file a complaint. The MSU Police investigation commenced. Nassar’s employment was terminated shortly thereafter. Work began within the HealthTeam and other areas of the university to improve safety. Given the challenges, my transition was postponed. I appreciate the support you provided.
"The survivors’ accounts are horrific. They are tragic, heartbreaking, and personally gut-wrenching. I take solace that many victims have indicated that the opportunity to confront Nassar is a step toward healing. I am proud of the exceptional work of the Special Victims Unit led by Lieutenant Andrea Munford with the steadfast leadership of Chief Dunlap. I am proud of my support of their work even though the results have been very painful to all who watched.
"As Nassar’s legal journey to prison was drawing to a close, more and more negative attention was focused on Michigan State University, and on me. I am pleased that statements have been made by Mr. Fitzgerald and Board members about my integrity and the fact that there is no cover-up. I support wholeheartedly the Board’s decision to ask the Attorney General’s Office to review the events surrounding the Nassar matter. This is an important step toward providing more assurance to the university community and to the public. In the past, I have provided assurances to the Attorney General of my full cooperation, and I will continue to do so.
"As tragedies are politicized, blame is inevitable. As president, it is only natural that I am the focus of this anger. I understand, and that is why I have limited my personal statements. Throughout my career, I have worked very hard to put Team MSU first. Throughout my career, I have consistently and persistently spoken and worked on behalf of Team MSU. I have tried to make it not about me. I urge those who have supported my work to understand that I cannot make it about me now. Therefore, I am tendering my resignation as president according to the terms of my employment agreement.
"Anyone who knows me knows I am a principled person. I have spent my entire professional career, more than 40 years, at MSU. I love this place. I have watched it grow and prosper, and it has been the honor and privilege of my life to serve as its president since 2005, and over the last few years, to have the opportunity to work with all of you toward our shared goals for MSU. I will continue to do whatever I can to help MSU prosper in the future as a Spartan in whatever role I may play."
Lou Anna K. Simon, President
John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor
And here is the letter from MSU Board of Trustees Chairman Brian Breslin:
"President Simon has offered her resignation to the Board of Trustees, and we will accept it. We agree with Dr. Simon that it is now time for change.
"President Simon has served with distinction as MSU’s President for 13 years and has been a constant presence at the university for more than 40 years. She literally has devoted her entire professional life to this institution, and more than anyone else has helped make MSU a national and international leader in higher education.
"We will be working through the details of transition with President Simon through the rest of the week and will announce them as soon as we can. Many are aware President Simon delayed returning to the faculty to lead through the challenges the university has been facing. We greatly appreciate her integrity, her many contributions, and her willingness to continue to serve through transition."
Brian Breslin, Chair, MSU Board of Trustees
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