Ball State University president Paul Ferguson has abruptly resigned, the university’s board of trustees said Monday.
Ferguson requested a two-month sabbatical and will officially resign at the end of that leave.
“While the board and Dr. Ferguson are disappointed that this relationship has ended, we wish Dr. Ferguson and his wife, Grace, well in their future endeavors,” said board chair Rick Hall in a written statement.
Ferguson was hired in August 2014 to replace Jo Ann Gora, who retired earlier that year after 10 years at the university. Ferguson previously served as president of the University of Maine.
Ferguson said in a written statement that it was an honor to work with faculty, staff and students at Ball State.
“We have, together, worked diligently to refresh our vision and legacy of beneficence and entrepreneurship, refocused on being student-centered and community-engaged, and improved many of our policies and procedures to be best practices,” Ferguson said.
Provost Terry King was appointed by the board as acting president. King served as interim president of the university in 2014 following the retirement of former President Jo Ann Gora.
The Fergusons were advertised to attend a "Meet the President" Ball State alumni event in Los Angeles on Sunday but did not appear. Organizers gave no explanation for their absence.
Ferguson became president of the 21,000-student university less than 18 months ago at age 61. He arrived on the Muncie campus just weeks after Hall announced the hiring of a former federal prosecutor to review the handling of fraudulent investments that cost Ball State $13.1 million. Ball State officials learned the school was the victim of fraud in 2011 but did not go public for two years at the request of law enforcement officials.
"It has been an honor and privilege for Grace and me to work with and to serve the faculty, staff, and especially our students, at Ball State University," Ferguson said in a release.
Ferguson was paid a base salary of $450,000 when he became president, The Star Press of Muncie reported at the time.
Associate professor Amy Harden, president of University Senate, said she did not know why Ferguson was leaving.
"I am surprised by the seemingly abrupt nature and am immensely saddened by this news," she told The Star Press. "In the short time he has been at Ball State, he has had a tremendous positive impact through the various initiatives and the ... refocus on Ball State as the university for entrepreneurial learning and community engagement."
The surprise announcement prompted discussion among students.
"It was strange because we are the centennial class and it kind of saddened me because I've heard so many great things about him," sophomore Alyssa Smith told WTHR-TV.
Student Body President Jack Hesser said he was shocked by the news.
"I was definitely really sad to hear it," Hesser said, adding he loved working with Ferguson. "I think that he was an exceptional president."