University of Tennessee Executive Vice President Steven D. Leonard resigned late on Tuesday afternoon, citing in his resignation letter a desire to return to the private sector.
Leonard's resignation adds more concern to the continuing fallout from former UT President John W. Shumaker's resignation on Aug. 8.
"It is with all due respect to you, Joe, the Board, the students, faculty, and staff that I request you accept my resignation as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The University of Tennessee and the UT System effective Sept. 2, 2003," read the resignation letter sent to UT Interim President Joe Johnson.
Leonard cited accomplishments made over his nine-month stay at the university in his letter to Johnson.
"I have worked steadfastly to install the best administrative ideas and practices," he said.
Leonard served as special assistant to former Gov. Don Sundquist for two years before being "encouraged" to apply for the chief operating officer position at the university.
He served as the liaison between the governor's administration and UT during the presidential search, which led to the hiring of Shumaker during his last year with the governor.
"I agreed to work at UT only until major initiatives and change processes were implemented," he said. "While the job at UT is still incomplete, major progress has been made; and it is time for me to return to the private sector."
The university paid Leonard $225,000 annually in his position as chief operating officer.
Johnson released a statement shortly after the resignation became public late in the day, and said he would move soon to appoint a temporary replacement.
"I will move ahead soon with the selection of an acting executive vice president and chief operating officer to work with me during my tenure as interim president," he said. "Efforts will be directed toward someone currently involved with The University of Tennessee."
SGA President Sarah Keeton said she thought it was interesting there would be an appointment instead of an evaluation of the necessity of the position.
"I would like to see the position evaluated," she said. "If it turns out the university needs this official position, then fine, I would have no problem with that."
Johnson told The Daily Beacon on Tuesday the replacement would only serve while he is in office.
"Anybody I do appoint would be somebody at UT, moved up from a role, but would only serve while I'm here," he said.
UT Chancellor Loren Crabtree had not received news of the resignation when The Daily Beacon contacted him for comment.
"I have a lot of respect for Steve Leonard," he said. "I wish him well in his new activities, whatever they may be."
UT Trustee Susan Williams said she isn't surprised.
"I'm not surprised considering everything that has happened with the Shumaker situation," she said. "I think that Steve was inexplicably connected with Dr. Shumaker, and the problems that we have experienced in the past couple of weeks... I hope he does well."
Beauvais Lyons, president of the faculty senate, said some faculty had concern about Leonard.
"The concern that some faculty had about Mr. Leonard is that he didn't have a lot of academic experience, and I think that is important in terms of his role," he said.
State Sen. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville, said he thinks public demand caused the resignation.
"I suspect though that after seeing the response from the administration that we should see some more and possibly some firings," he said. "I don't think that we are going to get to the root of the problems with Shumaker; we need to address some of the people in charge."
Leonard said in retrospect he wished he would have been supporting UT from the outside, rather than join the university as the executive vice president.
"To that end, I pledge my ongoing assistance to you and your staff as you plan for the future," he said. "In retrospect, that should have been my approach from the state; and I apologize to my family, friends and neighbors who have been so supportive and encouraging. My desire to make a difference outweighed the practical considerations I should have made."
Leonard is scheduled to appear before the state Fiscal Review Committee in Nashville on Thursday to answer questions about his role in the hiring of Shumaker.
- Staff writer Ryan Seals contributed to this story
Fallout continues: Executive V.P. resigns
Published: Wed Sep 03, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:18 p.m.