Former University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan has been named interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Michigan State University. Sullivan, who served in UVA’s highest office from 2010 to 2018, was appointed by MSU President Samuel Stanley following the abrupt resignation of former provost June Youatt.
The new position will be somewhat of a homecoming for Sullivan, who received her undergraduate diploma from MSU’s James Madison College in 1970. She previously served as provost of the University of Michigan from 2006 to 2010. Sullivan will begin her term on Oct. 1 amid a national search for Youatt’s permanent replacement.
In an interview with MSU Today, Stanley expressed confidence in his choice and discussed Sullivan’s credentials.
“Terry has a wealth of experience as a provost and previous university president and will help us tremendously as we weather through our changes at Michigan State as well as our search for a new provost,” Stanley said. “Her experience is hard to beat, as is her love and dedication to her alma mater. We are grateful to her for stepping into this role. Her external viewpoint, combined with the understanding of faculty and governance structures, is invaluable.”
The appointment of Sullivan comes during a time of crisis for MSU. Youatt stepped down on Sept. 5 after a U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights investigation into the university’s handling of complaints involving former MSU doctor and convicted serial child molester Larry Nassar. According to The Detroit News, Youatt allegedly knew about sexual abuse accusations against the disgraced sports doctor and his boss but did little or nothing in response.
In the wake of the government investigation, Michigan State University was fined $4.5 million — the largest penalty ever levied under the Clery Act, a federal law which requires universities to report crimes on campus.
Stanley is also the recent successor of a former MSU administrator embroiled in the sexual abuse scandal. Lou Anna Simon, who served as MSU president from 2005 to 2018, is currently facing charges of two felonies and two misdemeanors for allegedly lying to police about her knowledge of Nassar’s crimes. Stanley, who has committed to fostering a “culture of accountability” in his new administration, began his term as president on August 1. Sullivan was picked as an adviser to the search committee that hired Stanley last year.
Sullivan, no stranger to handling crisis at a major university, explained her hopes for her tenure as MSU provost.
“I love MSU, and I’m committed to helping where I can,” Sullivan said. “I intend to work with the faculty, staff and students to further the university’s academic and research mission. Supporting the success of the faculty and the students is the most important focus of the provost, and I’ve made it my life’s work and mission to achieve these goals at all universities I’ve had the honor to serve.”
Sullivan retired as president of the University of Virginia in 2018. She was succeeded by James E. Ryan that year. When he assumed office, Ryan expressed gratitude for Sullivan’s example.
“I begin my tenure with great thanks to President Sullivan for her leadership, and for leaving the University in such a strong position,” Ryan said. “She understood that the core of the University is the strength of the faculty, the student experience, affordability, [and] accessibility.”