By Erin Pampe
“It wasn’t the Board’s decision– it was George’s decision,” Nathan Miller, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said. “George came to the board and asked the board to not renew his contract. Basically, he had made other plans.”
On March 6th, Bridgewater College President George Cornelius announced that he would be terminating his contract as president at the end of the current academic year.
The Board of Trustees has appointed Roy W. Ferguson, Jr., Executive Vice President, as interim president to succeed Mr. Cornelius. This transition, which took effect on March 6th, will be completed on May 14, 2012.
“It’s a role I did not expect. I agreed to do it simply because the Board asked me to, so I’m a little nervous,” Ferguson said. “It makes me a little less nervous knowing that I have great people to work with, and I have a lot of support. This makes it a little easier on my adjustment.”
To keep the transition smooth, Ferguson is currently working with Cornelius to fit into the different presidential categories and learn what he needs to know in that position.
According to both Miller and Ferguson, the reason for George’s departure is unknown. “Anytime there’s a transition, people are curious as to the reasons for those transitions. That’s natural,” Ferguson said. “The college is in great shape, for there aren’t any financial problems or accreditation problems—none of this is happening because there are concerns or problems on the horizon,” he added.
Miller says that despite speculation or rumors, the decision was Cornelius’s alone; there weren’t any contributing factors. “I think it’s important from not only the students’ standpoint, but from faculty and the larger community of Bridgewater to understand that there was absolutely no scandal and there is no impropriety by President Cornelius,” Miller said. “As a matter of fact, he is an individual of the highest moral character and standards. I admire him for that. ”
This decision, Miller says, is his to decide to keep to himself or to announce to the campus community. “I know that a lot of people like to speculate and gossip but it’s just not proper to do that, and he has his own reasons. I don’t think any discussions, gossip or conversations like that are really helpful or beneficial,” Miller said. “Everyone is entitled to make their own personal decisions and they don’t have to announce them to the world. Even as Board Chairman, it isn’t my position to quiz him on why he makes his decisions. That’s his right and privilege,” he added.
Gossip about this decision has spread throughout the campus community. Students’ reactions to the announcement spread like wildfire via Facebook posts and discussions around campus. It seems that the majority of the students feel that Cornelius’s decision to leave was the right decision, as well as a good thing for the college. Ashley Vallen was one of these students who were happy to hear that he was leaving. “In all my years with President Stone, I saw him every year at least twice. I haven’t seen Cornelius at all. He doesn’t seem very personable, and I have no problem with seeing him leave,” she said.
“I am ashamed of the BC students, why rejoice at someone leaving BC in such a hurried manner? I personally think George Cornelius was a great president of the college, and I am extremely sad to see him go,” student Katy Bradford wrote as her Facebook status.
“I don’t really have an opinion about President Cornelius leaving, as far as it as positive or negative. Perhaps Bridgewater College wasn’t the best fit for him, and that would be an understandable reason for leaving. However, I think he did the job to the best of his ability, and did what he thought was to the benefit of the majority. No one can knock him for that,” Kelsey Byard said.
Beyond all speculation about Cornelius’s reason to leave, Nathan Miller believes that there is no reason to fear for the future of the college.
Both Ferguson and Miller agree that Bridgewater is a strong college that will continue to thrive and have the same focus towards educating students as a whole, both in academics and in citizenship as well.
The Board of Trustees will begin a search for the next president after their regular meeting in April.