West Virginia University president James Clements to lead Clemson

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West Virginia University president James Clements has accepted the presidency of Clemson University in South Carolina, adding WVU to the list of major universities in the tri-state area seeking a new top leader.

Both the University of Pittsburgh, where chancellor Mark Nordenberg is stepping down Aug. 1, and Penn State University, where president Rodney Erickson leaves his post June 30, are looking for leaders.

Clemson announced the appointment Monday, but the date for Mr. Clements' departure has not been determined.

He will replace James Barker, who plans to retire in April after 14 years as Clemson president. Mr. Barker will stay on the faculty in the School of Architecture.

James W. Dailey II, chairman of the WVU board of governors, who praised Mr. Clements, said, "In the coming days and weeks, we will announce a plan for interim leadership and then a permanent plan moving forward."

Mr. Clements, who joined WVU in 2009, is a highly regarded president. He previously was the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Towson University,

Lisa DiBartolomeo, faculty senate chair and faculty representative to the board of governors, said, "On behalf of the faculty and probably everybody else in the university community, we're all really sad to lose President Clements and his family. He's been a fantastic leader."

Of his accomplishments, she said, "He has brought to WVU national prominence and attention for all the right reasons."

She cited growth in private giving, enrollment, research dollars, the health care system, facilities and outreach.

Mr. Clements' letter to the WVU community upon his announcement noted that "critical gains" were made in salaries and benefits for faculty and staff "although there is much more to do."

Ms. DiBartolomeo said Mr. Clements did what he could within his control, adding, "Of course, West Virginia has taken some really big hits to funding to higher education last year and it looks like we're going to have another one for next year. He's been an important component in how we deal with that and how we adjust to these challenges."

Mr. Clements took the helm following a troubled time at WVU over a degree-granting controversy.

"He very quickly turned things around and won over the faculty, won over the staff and won over the students," Ms. DiBartolomeo said.

Student body president Ryan Campione, a senior, said, "It's sad to see him go. I'm surprised by the decision, but I'm really appreciative of everything he's done for WVU and wish him the best as he moves forward."

The Student Government Association issued a statement thanking Mr. Clements: "His dedication to the student body has led to numerous positive changes for students, including an expansion of the Evansdale Campus, the addition of new club athletic fields and a significant increase in academic scholarships for students."

In his letter to the WVU community, Mr. Clements said, "I wasn't looking to leave WVU. In fact, when I first was called I simply responded that I love WVU, the students, faculty and staff and the community. However, after much thought, reflection and prayer, [wife] Beth and I decided that this is an opportunity that we couldn't pass up."

His appointment was announced by Clemson board chairman David Wilkins, who said the board "is convinced we got the very best person to be our next president," calling him the "right fit" for the South Carolina institution, which has 20,768 students.

In his letter, Mr. Clements expressed the honor he feels for serving the university and cited various achievements at the university, which has 29,466 students at its main campus.

"We have broken numerous records, including many in enrollment, fundraising and research," he said.

"We have been blessed to have alumni and friends who give so much to make a difference in the lives of others," he wrote.

He said the university is in the midst of $1 billion in construction projects, including improved research labs and student housing. He also noted WVU's acceptance in the Big 12 athletic conference.

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.

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