Embattled Michigan State University interim President John Engler says in letter that he will resign

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State University interim President John Engler said Wednesday in an 11-page letter that he will resign in a week.

Read that letter below:

On Wednesday, MSU trustee Brian Mosallam told The Associated Press Wednesday that if Engler “doesn’t resign, we are going to vote to remove him.”

“I think it sets a tone that this board is going in a different direction — that leadership comes from the top and that empathy, compassion and culture change starts from the top,” Mosallam said about the move to oust Engler.

The Board of Trustees called a special meeting for Thursday morning. It's unclear who will take over as interim president.

According to the AP, Engler sent an 11-page letter to Dianne Byrum, chairwoman of Michigan State's Board of Trustees. The letter makes no mention of recent criticism of his remarks about victims of former sports doctor Larry Nassar. Instead, he lists what he considers to be his accomplishments in his one year of service and says the university is a "dramatically better, stronger institution."

The meeting comes amid more controversy this week from Engler. He told the Detroit News editorial board last week that Nassar survivors are enjoying the attention they're receiving.

"You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been … there are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight," Engler told The News. "In some ways, they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition."

Nassar, who molested hundreds of girls and women while employed at Michigan State, is now serving decades-long prison sentences for sexually assaulting patients and possessing child pornography.

Engler, Michigan’s Republican governor from 1991 through 2002, was hired by trustees last February after the previous president resigned amid fallout from the Nassar scandal.

In April, Engler told another university official in emails that Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to go public with her accusations about Nassar, was probably getting a “kickback” from her attorney.

Denhollander told the AP Wednesday that her hope is that the board “is signaling at least the beginning of a true change in direction and tone. And in order to do that, they have to deal with the person they put in place.”

She said who Engler was and how he operated “was no secret in Michigan.” The former board — five members remain and three are gone — picked Engler “for a reason,” she said, and it “needs to take responsibility for what they did.”

Her biggest concern with Engler’s tenure has been what he has “communicated about abuse,” Denhollander said. “What he has communicated is that survivors who speak up will be attacked and blamed and shamed, that those who push for change are going to be accused of enjoying the spotlight, that they will be lied about.”

Denhollander said Wednesday that Michigan State, including the board, should waive attorney-client privilege and release documents to law enforcement. She also renewed her call for MSU to conduct a truly independent investigation of its actions.

“Removing President Engler, it would be an excellent first step,” she said. “It is by no means the only thing that needs to happen, but I would be encouraged to see that first step.”

The elected board has five Democrats, two Republicans and an appointee who was named last month by then-Gov. Rick Snyder. The board’s makeup became more Democratic in the November election. Engler, a Michigan State alum, served as governor from 1991 through 2002.

The Board of Trustees previously released a timeline of finding a new president.

  • July-October 2018: Host listening sessions with stakeholders
  • July 2018: Issue request for proposals from presidential search firms
  • August 2018: Form the search committee
  • September 2018: Conduct search firm interviews and make a selection
  • October 2018: Finalize the position profile and make public
  • November 2018-January 2019: Identify candidates and conduct initial interviews
  • February-May 2019: Host finalist interviews with the Board of Trustees
  • June 2019: Announce the selection of the new MSU president

"Finding the right president for Michigan State and completing the search in accord with this newly established timeline are critical steps for MSU and its future,” said Teresa Sullivan, retiring president of the University of Virginia and a MSU alumna. “I look forward to working with the Board of Trustees and stakeholders in the Spartan community as they seek to attract a great leader for the next chapter in the life of Michigan State University.”

Copyright 2019 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.