By Valerie Bustamante
The University of the Incarnate Word will celebrate the longtime service of its former president, Dr. Louis J. Agnese Jr., and his forthcoming retirement at a Dec. 12 dinner.
UIW’s Board of Trustees, which placed Agnese on medical leave and named Dr. Denise Doyle as acting president in mid-August, announced Oct. 7 that Agnese would be named president emeritus.
The celebratory tone was a turnaround from campus chaos caused after the board removed Agnese as president after an anonymous letter was sent to the San Antonio Express-News accusing him of making racist remarks at a physical therapy luncheon on Aug. 15, remarks that were directed towards African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Mormons.
Reportedly, Agnese never denied making the remarks but didn’t find them offensive. After the board placed him on medical leave, citing Agnese’s “sporadic uncharacteristic behavior and comments,” the former president threatened to sue “the pants off” Board Chairman Charlie Lutz.
Apparently, relations between Agnese and the board have improved.
In a statement released to the UIW community on Friday, Oct. 7, Lutz said Agnese will join Sister Margaret Patrice Slattery, another longtime former president, in an emeritus role. The statement also mentioned Agnese had been visiting with his physicians for treatable conditions such as severe exhaustion.
“We have had very positive and affirming conversations with Dr. Agnese in the last few weeks and both the Board and Dr. Agnese are highly encouraged about the future of this important relationship,” Lutz said in the statement.
Agnese is reportedly out of the country until Nov. 5, and upon his return, the board will further discuss his new role as president emeritus. Agnese, who began his tenure at then- Incarnate Word College as one of the nation’s youngest presidents in 1985, is retiring Dec. 31.
In recent years, Agnese traditionally had been giving a “State of the University” address. Doyle followed suit Oct. 27 in CHRISTUS Heritage Hall, giving updates on the state of affairs including Agnese’s role and the search for a new president.
“I know there has been a lot of interest in the university about the transition of the presidency of UIW,” Doyle said. “First of all the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has been working hard with Dr. Agnese to arrive at a friendly conclusion to his presidency of 31 years.”
As for Agnese’s president emeritus role, Doyle said, “Some people have asked others and me at the university what does that mean? Well, I think most of the faculty knows that the term ‘emeritus’ is used in the academic setting really to designate long service to the institution. So those of us who are emeritus know that it really is a sign of the esteem that the university holds each member and the gratitude we have for service.”
Meanwhile, the board asked Doyle, a former provost and chancellor, to serve as acting president until the board names a new president. Doyle reported a search committee is still yet to be named.
Doyle emphasized that it won’t only be the search committee involved in the effort to name a new president.
“I think we all have to realize that the search committee itself is not going to choose the next president of the university,” Doyle said. “The search committee is in many ways doing the legwork and really focusing their attention on the process of getting all of the necessary publicity out than getting a large set of candidates, a pool of candidates. Then reducing that to perhaps 10 people who they believe they want to interview and then bringing the final candidates on campus.”
Feedback will be critical from the UIW community on any candidates visiting campus, she said.
“As I have told any group I have spoken to I hope we will have a new president on the first of July. Most feel that it is a very realistic possibility. I have told other groups I believe UIW is a very attractive [Catholic university] for the presidency. We are a very robust, complex and a vital university that has had a long period of growth. We are just at the very beginning of it and as soon as the committee is named we will send out information and I feel committed to keeping the larger community apprised at where we are in the process.”
Another order of business is celebrating the past president’s service at the Dec. 12 Associates Dinner.
“Dr. Agnese has meant so much to this University in his more than 30-year tenure as president and it has been our hope that we would all be able to honor his achievements and legacy at UIW,” Lutz said.