Outgoing Sonoma president Sakaki will be replaced in interim with retired leader Lee

Former Sacramento State provost will try to stabilize the state university as Board searches for permanent leader.
By: | June 28, 2022
Photo courtesy of Sonoma State University

Still stinging from the highly public fall of former leader Judy Sakaki, leaders at Sonoma State University and the California State University system hope the announcement of new interim president Ming-Tung Lee will add stability to a shaken campus.

“Mike” Lee officially will take over for Sakaki on Aug. 1 as she departs amid a sexual harassment scandal involving her husband Patrick McCallum and allegations of retaliation by both from former provost and current higher education president Lisa Vollendorf. Lee, a former vice president and provost who spent 28 years at Sacramento State before retiring in 2018, was given a 12-month-plus position spanning the 2022-23 academic year by another interim leader, CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester. Its Board of Trustees will be conducting a search for a permanent president during his tenure.

“Throughout his decades of service to Sacramento State, Dr. Lee has a demonstrated history of collaboration and innovation leading to improved levels of student achievement,” said Koester, who took over in May after former Chancellor Joseph Castro resigned after failing to address sexual harassment allegations at Fresno State. “He has served as a faculty member and led two divisions within the university, and these experiences give him unique and thorough insight into the operations of a university campus.”

In fact, Lee not only was Vice President for Administration and Business Affairs and chief financial officer but also headed academic affairs for one year during a nine-year run. He still has emeritus status in the business administration department at Sacramento State.

A first-generation student, he matriculated through the Taiwan university system, earning undergraduate and master’s degrees before moving to the U.S. and earning his doctorate from the University of Kentucky. Upon graduation, he accepted a position teaching marketing courses at Sacramento State and later became a full-time faculty member.

Lee takes over a position that has been tumultuous at best over the past year, with calls for Sakaki to resign by two state legislators and members of the Sonoma community after multiple claims of misconduct were not appropriately dealt with. Sakaki officially resigned in early June but has been granted emeritus status and has been given the opportunity to stay at the institution and be part of the faculty in the Department of Education Leadership and Special Education. Lee inherits a university struggling with enrollments and a $15 million budget shortfall.

“Sonoma State offers world-class educational opportunities to the North Bay,” said Lee. “As the first member of my family to earn a college degree, I understand the profound impact it can make on the life of a student and their family. I look forward to working with SSU’s dedicated faculty, staff, administrators and student leaders to offer transformative opportunities to the students of the North Bay.”

Around campus: Kentucky State University, facing more than a $20 million budget deficit, has named an interim president to replace an acting president. Former Clark Atlanta President Ronald Johnson is taking over for Clara Ross Stamps, who has led the university for the past year since M. Christopher Brown was forced out as president. … Sue Henderson, who has been president of New Jersey City University for the past 10 years, is leaving her position on June 30. Vice president Jason Kroll will be acting president as the institution searches for a new leader.

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