EAST LANSING - The Michigan State University Board of Trustees have chosen a university vice president to serve as acting president until an interim president is chosen.
Bill Beekman, who serves as secretary to the Board of Trustees, will temporarily take the place of former President Lou Anna K. Simon, who announced her resignation Wednesday a few hours after the sentencing of disgraced former doctor Larry Nassar on sexual assault charges.
“My role really is to allow (the board) the opportunity to (find an external acting president) as quickly as possible, hopefully within a number of weeks," Beekman said.
Beekman said the university will support the board's effort to make cultural changes in an effort to honor the victims of Nassar's abuse. The former MSU and USA Gymnastics doctor pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, but more than 150 women and girls say he assaulted them.
Trustee Dianne Byrum said Beekman’s tenure hopefully would be "a matter of days or a few weeks."
Trustees formally accepted Simon’s resignation on Friday. They also addressed their failures during the Nassar scandal and those of the university as in institution.
“You have heard us say that we will work to ensure that this will never happen again,” Board Chair Brian Breslin said. “For me, that is an acknowledgment, and I acknowledge it, that our university has flaws in its processes, procedures and lines of communication.”
Breslin also addressed the board's efforts to get the attorney general to investigate the events surrounding the Nassar scandal.
“There has been a swirl of comments that it’s going to get political,” Breslin said. “To avoid that and get the victim-survivors the report they need, the investigation they need, it’s my personal opinion that, and I ask him to consider, bringing in a neutral, independent, third party to do the investigation.”
He and several other trustees spoke of the need to begin an investigation as quickly as possible.
Trustee Brian Mosallam led off what was at times an emotional series of comments by the board of trustees.
"We failed you," Mosallam repeated several times during his comment. He also mentioned hosting a town hall at a future date where people could discuss how to combat sexual abuse at MSU.
Trustee Mitch Lyons apologized and said he wants to create a safe environment for "daughters."
"I have a daughter here," Lyons said. "I have a daughter who dreams of coming here, and I want her to feel safe, and I want all of our daughters to feel safe.”
Byrum apologized for the board’s lack of communication as the Nassar scandal grew.
“We’ve been way too silent, that has to end,” Byrum said.
Beekman is a 1985 graduate of Okemos High School and a 1989 graduate of MSU’s James Madison College. After law school at Wayne State University and a brief stint as an attorney, he came to work at the university in 1995 as a contract administrator for the MSU Health Team.
He went on to become assistant dean for planning and finance in MSU’s College of Human Medicine and, later, executive director of the university’s alumni association.
In 2008, he became board secretary and executive assistant to Lou Anna Simon, though the executive assistant part of his title was dropped four years later.
In a recommendation posted on Linkedin, Alumni Association Executive Director Scott Westerman called Beekman “an extraordinary executive with an almost magical ability to build consensus.”
“To get things done in the highly political and often lethargic academic environment is always a challenge,” Westerman wrote, “but it’s something Bill does extremely well, so much so that he's the troubleshooter the University turns to for the toughest assignments.”
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