Clarion U. president named interim chancellor of State System

Karen Whitney has led Clarion since 2010; search for permanent successor to begin soon

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education has named the president of Clarion University as interim chancellor once its current chancellor retires at the start of September,

Karen Whitney will serve as the interim leader of the State System beginning Sept. 12, officials said Friday.

Whitney has been Clarion president since July 2010 and earlier this year said she was planning to retire in June 2018 as the school’s top executive.

She comes aboard as the 14-university State System faces serious fiscal and other challenges. Chancellor Frank Brogan recently announced plans to retire.

Whitney has strong relationships across the system and beyond, the chairwoman of the system’s board of governors, Cynthia Shapira, said in a statement.

Whitney “is keenly aware of the challenges and opportunities ahead, and will be able to hit the ground running so we can continue our forward momentum,” Shapira said.

A major union for employees in the system, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, issued a statement Friday critical of Whitney’s selection.

“Clarion University has continued to struggle under Dr. Whitney’s leadership, and we have not heard her articulate a solid plan for turning the tide,” union president Kenneth Mash said.

Clarion faculty members have their concern about Whitney’s leadership style, priorities and defensiveness in the wake of criticism, Mash continued.

Still, he hopes to meet with Whitney soon to articulate the concerns of the faculty and coaches the union represents directly to the interim chancellor, he added.

Whitney recently completed a three-year term as chairwoman of the presidents’ council for the 14 universities, and is the longest currently serving president in the system.

A recent strategic review of the state system had issued a series of recommendations for change but no dramatic steps like closing or merging any of the 14 universities.

The report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems said the universities need better top management, more of a spirit of cooperation and a greater focus on their educational mission, press reports said.

Whitney said she welcomes the challenge.

“Every student succeeds when Pennsylvania has strong public universities that are part of a strong system,” she said.

“This is a heightened time of change and opportunity for our system. Our united commitment to this cause should be a loud and clear signal to every student and parent that our universities are serious about providing real access to opportunity, and we look forward to welcoming more than 100,000 to campus in just a few weeks.”

A national search will begin in the fall for a successor. Executive vice chancellor Peter Garland will serve as acting chancellor from Sept. 2 until Whitney’s arrival on Sept. 12.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com.

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