President moves: Hired, fired, retired and one unexpected loss after a 19-year tenure

Two presidents' tenures at the helm of their respective institutions lasted more than 10 years. Before becoming president, at least two leaders have served higher education in an academic or administrative capacity for over 25 years.

Among the presidents on this list who have been hired, chosen to retire or passed away, their track records speak to the level of their dedication and passion for the work. Two presidents’ tenures at the helm of their respective institutions lasted more than 10 years. Before becoming president, at least two leaders have served higher education in an academic or administrative capacity for over 25 years.

Remembering Sister Candace Introcaso

The word came from La Roche University’s (Pa.) Twitter page: “With a heavy heart, I must inform you that moments before the 2 p.m. prayer service, Sister Candace entered eternal life,” the post read.

Sister Candace Introcaso, having served La Roche University since 2004, died unexpectedly on Monday after the now-acting President Howard Ishiyama alerted the community that Introcaso’s health took an “unexpected turn” two hours prior. 

Introcaso’s legacy at La Roche will not be forgotten. She oversaw the institution’s transition from a college to a university in 2019 and helped expand its academic offerings and shift its campus operations to one cohesive campus location.

“I was honored to serve with Sr. Candace on the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, where her voice and conviction were invaluable to the presidents and senior leaders of our universities as we dealt with some of the most significant challenges of modern times during the pandemic,” said Ken Gormley, president of Duquesne University, a neighboring Catholic college in Pennsylvania.

Introcaso received the Passavant Foundation Legacy of Caring Award in 2018 and won the Pittsburgh Magazine and S&T Bank Woman and Business Award in 2016, according to WPXI.


The California State Board of Trustees was busy on Wednesday hiring three presidents across its public university system. The three new leaders have served extensive tenures at a California State University (CSU) institution, averaging 20 years where they served the longest.

Stephen Perez – California State University, Chico

As CSU’s second-oldest campus, the board tapped a president within its network to take the school’s helm in July. Stephen Perez currently serves as interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. Having already served as the former since January, Perez is well acquainted with two of the school’s top priorities: improve enrollment and close a $20 million budget gap.

Perez has served higher education at CSU for 30 years. Most recently, he served as the interim president at San Jose State in January 2022. His longest tenure was in Sacramento State for 20 years, where his responsibilities ranged from professor to provost. As provost, he led efforts to increase Sac State’s four-year graduate rates by 16% while working to eliminate equity gaps, according to a press release.

J. Luke Wood – California State University, Sacramento

J. Luke Wood will take the helm of Sacramento State in July, becoming the school’s ninth leader. Wood has a long tenure in higher education as a proponent of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. He has served as a chief diversity officer at San Diego State University (SDSU) since 2018 and vice president for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity since 2020. Moreover, the California State Senate appointed Wood to the newly established California Racial Equity Commission this year.

“Throughout his career in higher education, Dr. Wood has been a champion for access, educational excellence and student success,” CSU Trustee Diego Arambula said in a press release.

When Wood leaves SDSU for Sacramento, he will conclude a 12-year tenure.

Ming-Tung Lee – Sonoma State University

A president at any institution should be prepared to wear many hats today. Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee’s 28-year track record at Sacramento State is expansive enough to put any doubts to rest about his Sonoma State University presidential appointment.

Lee first joined Sacramento as an associate professor of marketing in 1990. After being promoted to professor seven years later, Lee’s first taste of leadership came in 2005, when he served as vice provost for academic programs for five years. In 2010, he changed departments to lead Administration and Business Affairs as the chief financial officer for eight years. During the 2016-17 academic year, Lee also led the academic affairs department as interim provost.

Retiring from Sacramento in 2018, Lee joined Sonoma in August of 2022 to serve as interim president. His passion for higher education is fueled by being a first-generation student. “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,” Lee said in a press release.


Rich Wagner – Dunwoody College of Technology (Minn.)

President Rich Wagner is calling his number at Dunwoody College of Technology, concluding an era defined by resiliency and growth. Wagner took the presidency amid America’s 2008-09 recession, facilitating efforts to remodel the school’s financial tools. After the pandemic, Wagner helped navigate the college’s embrace of virtual and hybrid learning.

Wager also oversaw the college’s $40 million campus renovation, no small fee for a small private technology college with a sub-2,000 student body.

“We don’t have to look like the Harvard faculty club,” Wagner said on the renovation, according to the StarTribune. “We are a hands-on industrial school. We also are a private, nonprofit college, and we have to look and feel like the valuable educational experience we provide.”

Over his 13-year tenure, Wagner has helped define the college, introducing a school of engineering with mechanical, electrical and computer engineering and a fully online-based program, Dunwoody Online, which offers nine online academic degrees.

Beginning as a teacher in electronics in 1995, Wagner’s total tenure at Dunwoody spanned 28 years.

Stepping down

Jack Thomas – Central State University (Ohio)

Jack Thomas, leader of HBCU Central State University, is choosing to walk away from Central State University once his contract expires at the end of June amid criticism.

Following accusations of harassment and discrimination by several female staff members, an outside legal firm charged with an independent investigation concluded Thomas’ behavior as “rude, belittling and bullying” but that it “does not rise to the level of harassment.”

However short and turbulent Thomas’ three-year tenure was, his impact will be felt for years to come. The campus has undergone several campus expansion projects since 2020, including a new honors residence hall and two new research buildings. Additionally, Central State is upgrading its campus broadband and infrastructure with $3 million and $65 million projects underway, respectively.


Linda Oubré – Whittier College (Calif.)

In the face of backlash over Whittier College’s plunging enrollment and revenue numbers, Linda Oubré is resigning. Oubré has served Whittier for five years and was the school’s first Black president, but with a 35% decline in enrollment and a 29% revenue drop, Oubré’s leadership came into question. An alumni group named “Save Whittier College” pledged $500,000 in school donations if Oubré left by May 1, and the Whittier chapter of the American Association of University Professors told the board that Whittier suffered from “mismanagement” and was in “turmoil.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, 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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