Recently controversial Albion College president resigns to take on Carnegie Foundation role

ALBION, MI – The president of Albion College, which has been the subject of controversy in recent months, has resigned.

The college board announced on Friday, December 24 that it had accepted the resignation of Mathew B. Johnson, who is poised to assume “an expanded role to lead a global initiative partnership with the Carnegie Foundation.”

The board is currently conducting a nationwide search for Johnson’s replacement. During this time, the board of directors has appointed administrator Joseph S. Calvaruso as interim president. Calvaruso recently retired as Executive Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation in Grand Rapids after a nearly three-decade career in banking.

“Mathew joined Albion College during one of the most tumultuous times of the past century,” Board chairman Michael J. Harrington said in a statement. “Despite the overwhelming challenges of COVID-19, he was able to achieve significant academic and financial achievements during his tenure.

“He did not inherit any manual on how to navigate a global pandemic, but his decisive actions and strong leadership allowed us to provide an exceptional residential experience at a time when many institutions were completely isolated and others were closing. ”

Johnson was appointed chairman by the board of directors in April 2020. He officially began his presidency on July 1, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he could not be officially inaugurated until semester d fall 2021.

Related: After a long pandemic wait, Albion College finally inaugurates a new president

Shortly before Johnson’s inauguration, he was the subject of an online petition calling for his impeachment. The petition alleged that Johnson intimidated staff and students, hired people of color only for superficial motives, improper financial activities, etc.

The petition collected 2,362 signatures.

“The people of Albion College and the surrounding community of Albion deserve better than this,” the petition says. “We deserve better than him. Mathew Johnson must face the consequences of his actions and be removed from his post. “

Related: Petition demands impeachment of Albion College president for alleged intimidation and racism

On December 14, Johnson reportedly had a confrontation with Hazel Lias, retired Albion teacher and NAACP board member, during a basketball tournament on the Albion campus.

During a December 17 press conference regarding the incident, Lias said she was at the basketball game when she asked Johnson to hand out T-shirts. Johnson told her that she could have one, but that she had to control one of her friends, activist Maurice Barry.

“The truth is he insulted me, he degraded me, he embarrassed me, that’s the truth,” Lias said. “Dr. Johnson didn’t speak to me – he yelled at me. His finger was inches from my nose, straight out, straight up, forcefully, with the prick-like finger.

Lias said Johnson apologized later.

On December 20, Albion spokeswoman Susie Pentelow made a statement regarding the incident, saying: “The college is aware of the incident last week. The executive committee of our board of directors and our firm are working as quickly as possible to determine our course of action. “

A silent protest was scheduled to take place outside Johnson’s home on the evening of January 4, in reaction to his interaction with Lias.

Albion College Interim Chairman of the Board Joseph S. Calvaruso

Going forward, Johnson will serve as chairman of the Commission for Public Purpose in Higher Education in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation, which is responsible for the management and ongoing development of the basic and elective classification systems of educational institutions. superior.

The Albion College Board of Trustees listed Johnson’s following accomplishments during his tenure at the college:

  • Opening of the School with a public vocation and professional advancement, which will expand the possibilities of experiential and professional learning to become a national model for a new engaged approach to the liberal arts and creation of the Curtis Institute for Race and Belonging.
  • Strengthening of the new Cutler Center for Student Success and Academic Achievement, which brings together all academic achievement services in one place to support academic excellence for all students.
  • Launched the new Membership Office and Membership Master Plan, a multi-year process in which all campus departments create achievable continuous improvement goals to solidify the College’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Master plans aiming to significantly restructure the financial operations and the capital structure in order to ensure the sustainability of the College, obtaining a BBB + bond rating.

“While incredibly difficult, I have loved the time spent serving Albion and successfully leading the college during the pandemic and strengthening our financial situation,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’m proud of the change we’ve made together – and the change that’s still happening.

“This new role will allow me to focus full-time on the work I love to strengthen the public purpose of higher education institutions nationally and internationally and to learn from the lessons learned from the work we have done at Albion. I have every confidence in the skills and commitment of the Cabinet and Acting President Joe Calvaruso to carry out the presidential research process and to expand and strengthen our successes. “

Calvaruso currently serves on the board of directors of the First National Bank of Michigan. He has also held management positions within the Risk Management Association, notably within its international board of directors. In addition to his role as administrator of Albion College, he serves on the board of directors of Michigan Certified Development Corp.

“It is an honor to serve my alma mater and the community of Albion,” Calvaruso said in a statement. “My roots in the Albion region run deep: I’m the fifth generation on my mother’s side to live in the region, and the third generation on my father’s side. I even got married on the beautiful Albion campus and my wife, Donna, adopted Albion College and the community of Albion.

“I can’t wait to connect with the campus and the community. I am delighted to be working with a number of people on different initiatives that will make a difference in the community that I have long called my home.

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