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Oakland U. President Steps Down Same Day Wife Goes

ROCHESTER, Mich. — Oakland University’s president announced his retirement on the same day his wife was relieved of her duties as coach of the school’s women’s basketball team.

Gary Russi said Wednesday he will retire after nearly 20 years heading up the 19,000-student suburban Detroit university.

Athletic director Tracy Huth also announced Wednesday that Russi’s wife, Beckie Francis, was relieved of her position.

It was unclear if there was a connection between Russi’s decision to retire and Francis’ removal.

Asked by The Detroit News if Russi was leaving because of Francis’ situation, university spokesman Ted Montgomery said: “I do not know that to be true.”

Francis wrote on Twitter that she was looking forward to the “next phase of life.”

“Gary & I have talked about retiring for a while now it’s time for both of us. Wish Oakland the best.”

Russi, 67, notified the Oakland community in an email before his retirement was announced publicly Wednesday, The Oakland Press of Pontiac reported.

“I extend my appreciation to the faculty, staff, alumni, friends, donors and the entire Oakland University community who have contributed to the growth and success of our students and the university,” Russi wrote in the internal email.

Russi’s retirement is effective Aug. 1.

The Oakland Board of Trustees named Associate Vice President for Outreach Betty Youngblood interim president.

A national search will be undertaken for a permanent replacement, the Detroit Free Press said.

Russi took over as interim president in 1995 and was named president in 1996.

Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Kramer called him “a transformational leader.”

Russi’s tenure was marked by increases in students, academic programs and campus capital improvements.

Francis, the second-winningest women’s basketball coach in school history, made national news last year when she publicly discussed her past as a victim of childhood sexual abuse.

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