Following closed door meetings this week, the Wheeling Jesuit University Board of Trustees has fired university president the Rev. Julio Giulietti, who has been at the helm since 2007.
According to reliable sources, the WJU Board of Directors had failed to reach a two-thirds majority vote to oust Giulietti, the university's eighth president in its 55-year history. According to sources, the Board of Directors has 17-18 members. Sources added that the two-thirds majority was nearly achieved.
However, in a prepared statement released to the Wheeling News-Register this morning, the Board of Trustees revealed that "on Aug. 5, 2009, the Board of Trustees of Wheeling Jesuit University announced the departure of Dr. Julio Giulietti, S.J., as president."
According to the release, "He (Giulietti) leaves the University to continue pursuit of his ministry, which has focused on spirituality, faith, personal development and international outreach."
An attempt to oust Giulietti this week by the board of directors was thwarted when the board failed to attain a two-thirds majority vote, according to reliable sources. However, the board of trustees, which is comprised of Jesuit clergy, overturned that decision and fired Giulietti. Dr. Donald Hofreuter, a member of the WJU Board of Directors, said he was "sorry to learn of the action of the board of trustees with regard to the termination of Father Julio Giulietti. It has been my privilege to serve the university with him the past 18 months."
"In addition, he is my personal friend, and I am sorry this action was taken."
Giulietti, who is on vacation, was not present for the meetings but learned of the attempt to fire him after the fact. When contacted by telephone today, Giulietti said, "There will be counter legal action filed today in Ohio County."
WJU Board President William Fisher, who works for the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, was unavailable for comment.
Giulietti said he is dismayed at how this action was taken. "I was surprised that the board president pushed for a vote on this before my evaluation was half completed. That was an insult to the rest of the board and the university," Giulietti said. Giulietti came to Wheeling from Boston College where he served at director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality. He worked primarily with faculty and staff in spirituality and personal development. Giulietti was named president of the university following the death of former WJU president, the Rev. Joseph Hacala.
The Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, commented on Giulietti's firing, while in Phoenix, Ariz., today, where he is attending the annual national meeting of the Knights of Columbus:
"As the only Catholic college or university in West Virginia, Wheeling Jesuit University has my utmost support during this period of transition," said Bransfield. "I wish nothing but continued success for the University and for the Jesuit Community in Wheeling.
"Although Wheeling Jesuit is not owned or administered by the Diocese, we share our Catholic identity and a common mission of education and service in our Mountain State. I am proud of the accomplishments of this wonderful university. I look forward to its continued advancement."
J. Davitt McAteer has been named acting president until the selection of an interim president.