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Ohio’s higher education chief resigns

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Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric D. Fingerhut announced his resignation Tuesday as the state’s leader of higher education, effective March 13.

Fourteen universities, 23 university regional campuses, 23 community colleges and more than 140 adult education programs make up the University System of Ohio, according to its website.

“I have loved every minute of the job, and remain passionate about the future of higher education in Ohio. It is now time, however, for me to pursue other opportunities for myself and my family,” said the 51-year-old Fingerhut in his resignation letter to Gov. John Kasich.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Fingerhut the seventh chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents on March 14, 2007. Although Fingerhut cites family reasons for resigning, others feel it was a disagreement of policies between himself and the newly elected Gov. Kasich.

“Certainly after the election he was not going to be seeking a second five-year term,” Rob Evans, Ohio Board of Regents press secretary, told The Lantern. “They both had a very frank conversation and it’s both what they decided would be best.”

Evans clarified that in no way was Fingerhut forced out. Evans said he expects the timing to coincide with Kasich’s state budget unveiling March 15. Although it is unclear when a new chancellor will be appointed by Kasich, Evans said “it would make sense to preserve continuity” if one were appointed immediately following Fingerhut’s resignation and before the budget is released.

Kasich released a statement that said, “Chancellor Fingerhut has served Ohio with dedication and commitment and I applaud his work to improve our colleges and universities. I look forward to building upon the important reforms started under his leadership and wish him and his family well.”

William Russell, associate vice chancellor on the Ohio Board of Regents and friend of Fingerhut, recalled some of their time together.

“He was a consummate professional, a great individual and was able to motivate people to do difficult work,” Russell told The Lantern.

Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee echoed those sentiments in a released statement.

“All Ohioans are the beneficiaries of his efforts to ensure access to higher education and to build quality in our institutions,” Gee said. “Eric’s long devotion to Ohio and to the civic good has made a lasting mark; and on a personal level, I greatly value his friendship and leadership.”

Fingerhut has been working the past three months with new legislators and administrators to brief them on policies and budget, Evans said. He will continue to help with the transition of newly appointed members.

“My staff and I will work closely with your administration to ensure a smooth transition of leadership,” Fingerhut said in his letter to Kasich.

Russell said Fingerhut had encouraged the other board members and vice chancellors to work with the new team for a more seamless transition and to get a better sense of fresh ideas.

“He’s committed to higher education and certainly has a love for the state of Ohio,” Evans said.

In his letter, Fingerhut emphasized the importance for education in Ohio.

“Higher education is in Ohio’s DNA,” Fingerhut said. “Though we have not always called our system of public higher education the University System of Ohio, we have been in the business of higher education as long as we have been a state.”

 

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