President M. Duane Nellis

President M. Duane Nellis delivered the 2019 State of the University Address in Walter Hall.

Ohio University President Duane Nellis announced Thursday that he’s stepping down from his post on June 30, two years before his term was scheduled to end.

Nellis, who took office in 2017, is expected to remain a tenured professor in the Geography Department while the university initiates a national search for the next president, according to a university news release. It’s not clear who's in line to lead the institution in the interim, but an announcement is expected in the coming days.

Sources familiar with the circumstances have suggested that former College of Business Dean Hugh Sherman, Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean Ken Johnson and former Board of Trustees chair Dave Scholl — whose term on the Board is nearing completion — are all in consideration for the role.

As president, Nellis oversaw the sharpest decline in student enrollment in decades while the university laid off hundreds of employees amid a financial crisis, amounting to what’s been seen as a tumultuous past few years for the institution. He and Vice President for Finance and Administration Deborah Shaffer also received votes of no confidence in 2020 from Faculty Senate.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve Ohio University as President these past four years,” Nellis said in a statement. “Ruthie and I have truly enjoyed being a part of this University and this community, and I am proud of the many accomplishments we have all made together. I am excited to continue my service to this great University as I return to the work that brought me in to higher education — my passion for working with students through teaching, research and service.”

The news comes after the Ohio University Board of Trustees called a highly unusual special meeting on Monday that was held almost entirely in executive session to discuss confidential matters.

“President Nellis has been a collaborative, smart, gracious leader who was always focused on ensuring the University was well positioned to serve students today and in the years to come,” Board of Trustees Chair Janelle Coleman said in a statement. “He has served honorably during a time of great challenge not just for Ohio University but for higher education, and we have been proud to partner with him on many important initiatives that have moved our University forward.”

As president of The University of Idaho, Nellis left in 2013 before his term was up to lead Texas Tech University, according to Boise State Public Radio. He stepped down at Texas Tech in 2018 before his term ended after expressing frustration with structure of governance at the institution while being considered for the presidency at University of Wyoming, according to The Texas Tribune. 

It's not yet clear what Nellis' salary will be as a faculty member. According to his contract, he can't be paid less than 55 percent of his initial base salary — $475,000. University spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said the terms of his faculty appointment will be finalized by the Board of Trustees around the time of its June meeting.

His 2021 base salary as president is $489,357, according to Leatherwood.

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