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Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch was awarded an M.B.A. degree from West Virginia University retroactively in October, even though official school records showed she was missing 22 of the 48 required credits. This week, a five-member investigative panel delivered its report to the WVU provost, unanimously finding that Ms. Bresch did not earn the degree and that administrators acted improperly using ambiguous and incomplete information in "an unnecessary rush to judgment, spurred in some measure by an understandable desire to protect a valued alumna ... "
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE PANEL'S CONCLUSION:
• The Post-Gazette calls WVU's registrar to check the academic credentials of newly appointed Mylan Chief Operating Officer Heather Bresch, daughter of West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, and is told that she did not complete an M.B.A. degree. A spokeswoman for Ms. Bresch tells the newspaper she did get her degree, in December 1998. A series of phone calls among Ms. Bresch, WVU President Michael Garrison and chief of staff Craig Walker begin.
• WVU spokeswoman Amy Neil tells the Post-Gazette the registrar was wrong and that Ms. Bresch earned her degree. "Based on verified university records, she has completed her degree," Ms. Neil says. "We went through records from 10 years ago to make sure all the credits were completed. We were able to verify that all the class work was completed. She did all 48 hours." Ms. Neil says nearly half of the required credits weren't transferred to the registrar's office because of a mix-up by the business school. Officials award the degree to Ms. Bresch retroactively.
• Ms. Bresch, whose boss, Mylan Chairman Milan Puskar, is WVU's biggest benefactor, tells the Post-Gazette she earned a master's of business administration degree in December 1998. She declines to provide a copy of a transcript, diploma or other documentation, saying her word and WVU's word are "better than a transcript."
• Provost Gerald Lang issues a brief statement saying errors on Ms. Bresch's transcript had been "appropriately corrected." "This is the last we will have to say regarding this matter," Ms. Neil says in a note attached to Mr. Lang's statement.
• The Post-Gazette publishes a story questioning the way WVU officials went about awarding a graduate degree to Ms. Bresch nearly 10 years after she left the program. The newspaper's research finds officials added six classes, worth 16 credits, to her record without documents showing she had registered, paid or done the work for them. Two other courses that had been marked "incomplete," worth six credits, were changed to letter grades. The newspaper's research indicates the changes were made in a way that violated WVU's internal procedures.
• Provost Lang names a three-person panel to investigate whether Ms. Bresch earned an M.B.A. degree and whether he or other WVU officials did anything wrong in rewriting school records and granting her the degree. Panelists include WVU professors Roy Nutter and Michael Lastinger, and Bruce Flack, vice chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
• Provost Lang acknowledges to the Post-Gazette that WVU lacked the records to show Ms. Bresch finished the degree. He subsequently tells the student newspaper that the odds she did not earn the degree are 50-50.
• E-mails obtained by the Post-Gazette through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that Mr. Walker, President Garrison's chief of staff, directed the university's initial investigation over several days that led to the school's Oct. 15 statement that Ms. Bresch finished her degree. • Mr. Garrison, a family friend and former business associate of Ms. Bresch, tells various media he played no role in the decision to award the degree. He describes Ms. Bresch as "someone I know, like I know a lot of people."
• WVU's faculty senate votes 46-34 recommending that three independent educators, not connected with WVU or West Virginia government, be added to the panel. The senate also asks that Mr. Flack be removed because of his agency's ties to Mr. Manchin. Mr. Flack resigns.
• The faculty senate elects three outsiders to serve on the panel: University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff, University of Missouri-Columbia management professor Lori Franz and Pace University economics professor Arthur Centonze.
• Breaking months of public silence, Ms. Bresch tells selected media that she earned her degree in 1998 by arranging a deal with then- M.B.A. program director Paul Speaker to substitute work experience for course work. Statements by Mr. Speaker refute Ms. Bresch's contention. Her explanation is inconsistent with changes WVU made to her record to show she earned the degree.
• The Post-Gazette sues WVU, alleging the university "has engaged in a constant and consistent practice of delay, evasion and concealment" in violation of West Virginia's Freedom of Information Act. The complaint says WVU withheld public records that are not privileged, including Mr. Garrison's e-mail and phone records.
• The panel submits its findings to Provost Lang. The five-member panel unanimously concludes that Ms. Bresch did not earn her degree and that administrators acted improperly in granting the degree retroactively, a source familiar with the report tells the newspaper.
• Board of Governors Chairman Steve Goodwin releases the report to the public, saying the board unanimously accepts the panel's findings "in principle." He directs Mr. Garrison to inform Ms. Bresch that her degree was inappropriately granted.
First Published April 24, 2008 11:08 am