By Matt Hose
Mary Lyons, the president of USD for over 10 years, will be stepping down from her position following the 2014-2015 academic school year. According to a campus-wide email first distributed by the Office of the President on Jan. 29, Lyons will complete this year and next academic school year before stepping down in Summer 2015.
She also extended the contract of Andrew Allen, who was the interim vice president and provost during the search for a replacement for former provost Julie Sullivan. Allen will now remain in the provost position throughout the search for a new president and continue through the 2016-2017 academic year.
Lyons’ decision follows a failed search for a new vice president and provost. Allen was originally selected as the interim vice president and provost during the search, in which three candidates were considered for a job. However, after the administration failed to find a new provost, Lyons extended Allen’s tenure until two years after she steps down, seemingly to make the transition for the new president smoother with a more experienced provost.
Allen said that the decision is timely, as a new provost would normally need an experienced president to show them the ropes at a new university. With him staying in the position as provost through 2017 he, along with the existing staff, could ease the transition for a new president into the job.
“It’s better for the new president to have a team in place, because it takes a while to learn, no matter what your experience is at other schools,” Allen said. “Every university kind of works a little bit differently, and so you need some time to assess what’s going on. That’s usually what happens.”
Then, once the new president has been acclimated to USD, the time would be appropriate for a new provost if Allen does not choose to continue at his position after the 2016-2017 academic year.
Allen, who has taught at USD since 1984 and began working in the administration from around the time that Lyons arrived as president in 2003, praised Lyons’ tenure at USD.
“What I [saw was] a shift from USD being a little college on the hill to a university with a national reputation, and I think that’s what she helped contribute to building,” Allen said. “President Lyons has now set the bar for what the president of the USD needs to do.”
In the 10 years she has served as president, Lyons has launched several new programs and headed new initiatives.
According to Allen, from the start of Lyons’ administration until now, the School of Business Administration went from being unranked to being a nationally-ranked school.
Lyons oversaw the founding of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies in 2007. Last year she also presented the founding of the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, made possible by a $20 million donation from Darlene Marcos Shiley.
She also has stood in solidarity with the LGBT community on campus for the past two years by approving and supporting USD’s Drag Show, the first of its kind on the Roman Catholic campus. Lyons approved this event amid pressure from high-profile donors who threatened to cease donations to the school.
Last year she also oversaw the construction of Fowler Park, a multi-million dollar baseball field that replaced John Cunningham Stadium.
Ron Fowler, the chair of the board of trustees and the chief benefactor of Fowler Park, described President Lyons’ contributions to USD in a press release.
“Dr. Lyons has been an exceptional leader of the university, contributing to its steady growth and development for more than a decade, while simultaneously raising its profile and reputation as a stellar, nationally-ranked Catholic university,” Fowler said.
Nevertheless, the last few years of Lyons’ presidency have also been plagued by controversy, at times spreading across the ocean.
In 2011 former basketball star Brandon Johnson was charged with shaving points while playing for USD. The scandal made national news for several weeks and culminated in the revealing of a Las Vegas centered gambling ring that attempted to bribe other USD students.
In November 2012 another scandal erupted when Lyons rescinded an invitation to British theologian Tina Beattie from holding an honorary fellowship at USD after Beattie signed a letter officially stating that she supported gay marriage. The story went viral, reaching blogs and news sources across the country and in the United Kingdom. Locally, many USD students complained through protests and open forums that they felt their degrees from USD had been devalued by the scandal. The issue culminated when a quorum of the academic assembly of the College of Arts and Sciences voted “No Confidence” in President Lyons. Many members of the CAS called for her resignation.
Senior Nick Dilonardo said that Lyons is responsible to any damage done to the reputation of USD students over the Beattie affair.
“Accountability begins where the buck stops,” Dilonardo said. “President Lyons’s position against Tina Beattie’s visit was not in the interest of the students or faculty, both of whom together amount to the shareholders of the university. We are who stand to benefit and be hurt the most by damage to our school’s reputation.”
Most recently, at the end of last semester, USD issued self-imposed sanctions on the football team while withdrawing from playoff contention and a Pioneer Football League championship. This was done in conjunction with an admission to violating PFL financial aid regulations. The incident is still under investigation by the PFL.
Dilonardo also said that President Lyons should be held accountable for this scandal, saying that “students were hurt to protect the interest of the institution as a whole.”
By press time Lyons had not made it clear whether she intended to take a position at another university following her departure from USD. She was unavailable for comment due to travel plans. She referred to her campus-wide email for comment.
Despite the ups and downs of the past decade, Associated Students President Alex Hermann said that Lyons will leave behind a legacy that will hopefully inspire new leadership.
“The university will certainly feel the repercussions from losing such a strong leader,” Hermann said. “However, I am confident our campus community will rally together and embrace the change. President Lyons will certainly leave a hole in our Torero family, but this will give students, faculty and administration the opportunity to continue what President Lyons has started under new leadership.”
President Mary Lyons to step down in 2015
By Matt Hose