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Gonzaga Board Ousts President After 10 Months Trustees Cite ‘Deep Philosophical Differences’

Less than 10 months after his inauguration, the Rev. Edward Glynn was forced to resign Friday as president of Gonzaga University.

The decision was made during a meeting of Gonzaga’s board of trustees.

Despite letters of support from faculty, staff and the Jesuit community, the board and Glynn came to a “mutual understanding” that it would be best for Glynn to leave, said board chairman James Jundt.

The two parties couldn’t reconcile their “deep philosophical differences,” said Jundt, an alumnus who has contributed more than $2 million to Gonzaga.

Without providing specifics, Jundt said Glynn and trustees disagreed on how the university should be run. The differences were similar to “a conservative and liberal who are good friends but have different perspectives,” Jundt said.

The trustees picked Harry Sladich, Gonzaga’s vice president for administration and planning, to act as interim president. Sladich, who is also the board secretary, has been with the university for 35 years.

Glynn was hired last spring. He and the trustees discovered their differences during a meeting last August, Glynn and Jundt said.

“There was great tension from day one,” said Glynn, adding he was asked to leave the room during that first board meeting. “I told them I had no confidence in the way they performed as a board.

“The train wreck was inevitable.”

The room where Friday’s news conference was held took on a somber atmosphere as people awaited the news of Glynn’s fate. Board members silently walked in. Those in the audience whispered among themselves. Glynn, in his usual black suit and clerical collar, paced around the podium, occasionally shaking the hands of supporters.

There were few students and faculty members on campus Friday. Many had already left for summer vacation.

Some who stayed reacted with shock and disappointment.

“I was dumbfounded and absolutely shocked,” said Michael Carey, associate professor of organizational leadership. “For a Jesuit and Catholic university, it’s hard for me to believe that mediation wasn’t possible.”

Like Carey, many faculty members didn’t know of the board’s problems with Glynn until this week. During a Thursday faculty meeting, they were told that an emissary of the trustees had asked Glynn to resign after Sunday’s commencement ceremonies.

It wasn’t a power struggle, Jundt said, adding Glynn simply wanted to change the board’s 20-plus-years of tradition. But it’s that tradition, Jundt said, that has made Gonzaga a great university. SAT scores of incoming students are up, he noted, and the campus has grown.

Some faculty members disagree.

“If the university doesn’t change, it will have only a 20-year tradition of empty buildings,” Carey said. “We need change and Father Glynn would have been the right man to bring that.”

Others were dismayed at the way the trustees handled the situation.

“It’s embarrassing and very sad for the university,” said John Caputo, professor of communication arts. “How will they get somebody else to apply when the situation is so troubling?”

Some also fear that Glynn’s departure will be detrimental to the school’s effort to diversify its student body and staff.

“Father Glynn is one of those rare leaders out there,” said Bob Bartlett, director of cultural diversity. “He came here with a message that was different and refreshing. … When he pushed for better race relations, my spirit was lifted.”

Glynn, who became a Jesuit in 1955, said he did his duty as president and has no regrets.

“Gonzaga is a great university,” he said, attempting a smile.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo