President moves: Big time hires, retires and 2 leaders crash out

After 20 years of leadership, higher education giant Paul LeBlanc is stepping down from Southern New Hampshire University.

The higher education president landscape experienced significant leadership changes during the closing weeks of 2023.

Two R1 universities have secured a president appointment following severe fallouts with their previous leaders. Moreover, the president of the country’s largest nonprofit provider of higher education is stepping down following his highly successful 20-year run.


Mark Welsh – Texas A&M University
Mark Welsh (Source: Texas A&M University)

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents has selected Mark Welsh as the university’s permanent president after serving four months as its interim leader. Welsh stepped in to lead the R1 university four months ago after an interim dean’s botched hire infuriated community members and caught heavy press.

Faculty and students have largely supported Welsh’s appointment thanks to his commitment to reviewing unpopular administrative strategies initiated by the former president, The Texas Tribune reports.

Prior to his appointment, Welsh served as dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service. He previously served as the 20th Chief of Staff of the Air Force, responsible for 664,000 active-duty forces serving in the United States and overseas.

Kevin Guskiewicz – Michigan State University

After a long and arduous journey, the fractured leadership at Michigan State University has finally appointed its new president, Kevin Guskiewicz, an accomplished neuroscientist and sports medicine researcher. The university has been a revolving door of presidents since doctor Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually abusing gymnasts under his care.

Guskiewicz is currently the chancellor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a position he’s held since 2019 and an institution he’s worked at for nearly three decades. His work to broaden in-state student access by increasing financial support aligns with MSU’s current mission. As a nationally recognized sports researcher, his contributions to cementing stronger concussion guidelines at the NCAA and the NFL made him the perfect leader to oversee UNC-Chapell Hill’s $1.2 billion research enterprise.

However, the accomplished academic has an entirely different objective coming into MSU. As its new president, he aims to increase leadership transparency and regain the community’s trust in the institution, The New York Times reports. Guskiewicz is the sixth president in six years and comes in after head football coach Mel Tuckers was found to have violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy.

More from UB: These colleges are making new campuses with old parts—and growing along the way


Paul LeBlanc (Source: Southern New Hampshire University)
Paul LeBlanc – Southern New Hampshire University 

After 20 years of leadership, higher education giant Paul LeBlanc is stepping down from Southern New Hampshire University, an institution recognized in Forbes’ “World’s Fifty Most Innovative Companies” spotlight.

LeBlanc is well known for his bold and innovative strategies that have helped grow SNHU from a regional institution to a global powerhouse and the country’s largest nonprofit provider of higher education. Serving over 220,000 learners in the nation, SNHU now educates graduates in Africa and the Middle East through its Global Education Movement initiative (GEM).

The key to LeBlanc’s successful run with SHSU is its approach to broadening student accessibility. The president has helped keep a ceiling on all tuition programs between $10,000 and $15,000. SHSU was also the first university to be approved for funding by the Department of Education for its competency-based education model, according to Campus Technology

“The student-first approach in everything we do doesn’t need to be taught,” LeBlanc said, according to a university statement. “It’s at the center of every decision at every level of the organization.”

Stepping down

Liz Magill – University of Pennsylvania 

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned following her Congressional hearing on her institution’s handling of antisemitism on campus. Read more here.

Christine McPhail – Saint Augustine’s University (N.C.)
Christine McPhail (Saint Augustine’s University)

President Christine McPhail of Saint Augustine’s University was relieved of her duties by the board of trustees without warning, leaving the school community—and McPhail—indignant.

While the board has declined to comment on the firing to local news stations, McPhail’s attorney believes it is correlated to a discrimination complaint McPhail filed against the board, ABC 11 reports. The complaint describes the board’s gender discrimination and instances where members “yelled and berated her.”

The board voted to fire her on Nov. 14 but did not notify her until Dec. 3. McPhail became president of the university following the death of her husband, the then-acting president of SAU, due to a COVID-related illness.

The firing comes at the heels of the Southern Association of Colleges (SACSCOC) voting to strip the small HBCU of its accreditation. Following their vote to appeal, the university remains an accredited institution on probation until the process concludes.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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