In a statement to the Auburn Family, the president pro tem of Auburn University’s board of trustees said Saturday that the board expects to name an interim university president “in the near term.”
“In time, the board will begin initial preparations to conduct a national search for a new president,” read the message from Wayne Smith, who was elected president pro tem earlier this month.
The university announced Friday night that Steven Leath is leaving after two years as Auburn’s president.
Leath and members of the board of trustees’ presidential assessment working group “mutually decided to part ways after extensive discussions about the university’s leadership,” Auburn said in the Friday news release.
Smith’s statement Saturday said the board is grateful for Leath’s dedication and commitment as Auburn “made strides as a world-class public university.”
“We wish Dr. and Mrs. Leath the best,” Smith said.
“During this period of change, we will rely on the extraordinary depth and strength of the Auburn Family, particularly the academic leadership and senior staff, as we have throughout Auburn’s rich history.
“With your help and support, we will have an orderly transition.”
Smith concluded his message by saying “we will provide updates as information becomes available.”
The board's executive committee is scheduled to meet Sunday to consider a "resolution regarding presidential actions."
After a unanimous vote, the board named Leath as Auburn University’s 19th president at a specially called meeting in March 2017. He officially stepped into the role that summer, when Jay Gogue retired as president after a decade.
Before coming to Auburn, Leath was president of Iowa State University, an office he held since 2012.
Members of the university community raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the presidential selection process that resulted in Leath coming to the Plains, the Opelika-Auburn News reported in 2017.
“With executive searches, such as the one we’ve just conducted, complete confidentiality is the norm for top-tier candidates,” trustee Raymond Harbert, who chaired the 14-member presidential search committee that recruited Leath, said at the time. “While we would’ve preferred the campus and local community to have an opportunity to meet the candidate prior to our vote, it simply wasn’t possible if we wanted to move forward with our top candidate.
“We rely on the student, faculty, staff and alumni representatives on the committee to act in the best interest of those they represent. In this case, they certainly did so.”
The committee was assisted by executive search firm R. William Funk and Associates.
Leath told the Opelika-Auburn News in 2017 that “there were a lot of tears shed” when the story broke that he would leave Iowa State for Auburn.
“There was no reason to put a whole university community and family through that if you’re not going to go somewhere else,” he said. “So confidentiality in these processes adds a level of professionalism, and it’s becoming the norm.”
The board of trustees in April 2017 approved a five-year contract for Leath, with an annual salary of $625,000.