WVU Names Interim President

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia University’s Board of Governors today named veteran educator C. Peter Magrath as the university’s interim president.

Magrath, who has served as the president of three universities and a national higher education group, will succeed President Mike Garrison, who is stepping down Sept. 1 over a master’s degree scandal involving the governor’s daughter. Magrath will play a key role in helping the university rebuild its damaged national reputation and choose a permanent successor.

Magrath (pronounced muh-GRAW) has the academic credentials to satisfy faculty critics who had decried Garrison’s appointment last year as political cronyism. Garrison, a 39-year-old lawyer, was chief of staff to former Democratic Gov. Bob Wise.

Magrath, in contrast, is former president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, which represents the interests of 215 public research universities and land-grant colleges. He’s also served as president of three public universities – the University of Missouri, 1985-91; the University of Minnesota, 1974-85; and the State University of New York at Binghamton, 1972-74.

The Board of Governors met behind closed doors for about an hour today before announcing Magrath’s selection.

“West Virginia University is a very, very good university,” Magrath said following his appointment. “This is a good place and, working together … this is going to be a very good experience for all of us.

“I did not solicit this (appointment) but I do appreciate the confidence the Board of Governors has put in me. I am convinced that we will do some very good things for a very good university.”

Finding a permanent replacement for Magrath will now become the focus for the newly reconstituted Board of Governors.

Three new members were sworn in Tuesday morning: venture capitalist and former software company executive Ray Lane; former Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Charles M. Vest; and Oliver Luck, president of the Houston Dynamo soccer franchise and a former WVU quarterback.

Garrison is stepping down after months of unrelenting pressure from faculty, alumni, donors and students.

Last fall, WVU administrators awarded an executive master’s business of administration to his friend Heather Bresch, an executive with Pennsylvania-based generic drug maker Mylan Inc. and the daughter of Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin.

Manchin hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in the flap.

An independent panel investigated, concluding Bresch hadn’t earned the degree, and that courses and grades were wrongly added to her transcript.

The panel did not accuse Garrison of direct interference but said the presence of three top aides at the decision-making meeting created palpable pressure.

The West Virginia Ethics Commission has made preliminary inquiries into the decision to grant Bresch the degree, WVU spokeswoman Becky Lofstead said today.

Lewis G. Brewer, the commission’s executive director, declined comment this morning, saying he could neither confirm nor deny whether the ethics board is investigating.