The president of one of Florida’s largest public universities stunned students and staff by abruptly resigning on Friday.
Mark Rosenberg announced his resignation as president of Florida International University on Friday after 12 years in the role.
The surprise announcement was quickly followed by a statement from Mr Rosenberg saying that his decision was prompted by a recurring health issue and concerns for his wife’s health.
FIU is now searching for a permanent successor to Mr Rosenberg who joined as an assistant political science professor in 1976 just four years after the institution was founded. In 1979 he founded the highly regarded Latin American and Caribbean Center.
“It is with a sense of accomplishment and sadness that I share with you that I will be resigning as president of FIU effective this Friday, January 21, 2022,” Mr Rosenberg wrote in an email to staff and students late on Friday afternoon.
“I am stepping back so that I may give full attention to recurring personal health issues and to the deteriorating health of my wife, Rosalie.”
Part of the surprise of the announcement comes from a recent interview with The Miami Herald. Mr Rosenberg told the paper on 14 December that he had no plans to retire.
“Ultimately I’m an academic, and I’ve got still three, maybe four, books left to write. My attitude is to go raging into that good night, whatever that looks like,” he said.
“At some point, I’ll step down, and we’ll get a new president, and I would expect them to pick up where I left off.”
He added that he wanted to enjoy the university he helped to build.
Students and alumni told the paper on Friday of their shock and surprise at the abruptness of the news referring to the president as just as much the face of the university as the school mascot Roary the panther.
On Twitter, many praised his “outstanding leadership” and “passionate partnerships with K-12 education”.
Dear members of the university community,
The following letter was shared with FIU Board of Trustees Chair Dean C. Colson today. pic.twitter.com/WXsj8iBwtg
— FIU (@FIU) January 21, 2022
One person wrote: “I’ve never seen someone thoroughly enjoy their profession as much as him.” Another suggested that someone should start working on a bronze statue of him.
Mr Rosenberg was the first member of the faculty to ascend to be president. During his time at the helm of the university, enrollment increased to nearly 58,000 students and 400 new full-time faculty were hired. Graduation rates also increased by 23 per cent.
Mr Rosenberg said he intends to resume research and the teaching of inter-American affairs.
An emergency meeting of the university’s board of trustees was called late on Friday afternoon and Kenneth Jessell, the chief financial officer and senior vice president of finance and administration was named as interim president.
His appointment will need to be approved by the Florida Board of Governors, which oversees the state’s 12 public universities.
Florida International University is the second-largest public university in the state and the fourth-largest in the country. Built on the site of an abandoned airport in western Miami, the institution is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.