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Fisk Provost Resigns, Taking U. of Minnesota, Morris Job

Fisk University’s road to stable leadership has hit another major bump.

Rodney Hanley, provost of the university for 18 months, announced late Thursday he was resigning his post at Fisk to become chancellor of the University of Minnesota, Morris. His departure is effective June 30.

The announcement comes at a most inopportune time for the institution. The Fisk board of trustees was set for its regular spring meeting later this month ahead of graduation ceremonies and an all class reunion next week to mark the institution’s founding 150 years ago this year.

Still, Hanley’s departure was not a complete surprise to education field professionals who track higher education. It had been expected since the sudden departure last year of President H. James Williams, the person who recruited and hired Hanley.

Williams, who was recruited three years ago from a school of business deanship at a state university in Michigan, abruptly parted ways with Fisk last year for reasons he nor the university explained. It was reported that he and the university board had reached differences on key leadership decisions. Williams was hired earlier this year to be president of Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati.

Hanley’s departure comes as Fisk has been searching for a new permanent president. The university has not indicated the status of the search.

Observers, citing Thursday’s announcement, said the turn of events could make it more difficult to replace the president and unlikely that an outsider could be recruited as provost, the No.2 position at an institution, until a president is hired.

The university also advised its community that President Obama would not be attending its spring graduation ceremonies, as planned earlier as part of its recognition of its 150th anniversary. The commencement address will be given by retired federal judge Helen Shores Lee, a Fisk alumnus who also is the first female to serve on the federal bench in Alabama.

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