Web exclusive: Garibaldi to leave Dec. 31; Kelly named interim president

A few changes are in store for the timetable surrounding the search for Gannon University’s next president.

The Most Rev. Donald W. Trautman, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie and chairman of Gannon’s board of trustees, announced Dec. 16 that President Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi, Ph.D., will serve his last day as president Dec. 31. Previously, it was announced that Garibaldi would serve as Gannon’s president until July 1, 2011.

Dr. Phil Kelly, future interim president of Gannon University

Trautman appointed Dr. Phil Kelly, professor of English, to serve as interim president beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Kelly is not a candidate for the permanent position of president, Trautman said, adding that he expects the university to have an interim president for at least six months.

Trautman first approached Keith Taylor, Ph.D., to fill the interim president role, but Taylor declined since he plans to apply for the job as full-time president.

Gannon’s board of trustees offered Garibaldi a sabbatical so he can focus on other scholarly activities before taking on his new position as president of the University of Detroit Mercy. He will still be at May’s graduation ceremony as the commencement speaker and will also be presented with an honorary degree.

Garibaldi spoke highly of Kelly, who has been a member of the English department faculty since 1968.

“He has far more experience at Gannon than I do,” he said.

Kelly has served in a range of administrative positions at Gannon, most recently as interim provost during the 2004-2005 academic year and also as dean of the College of Humanities in the early- to mid-1990s.

“I look forward to the opportunity to help the university move forward,” Kelly said.

Gannon’s board of trustees met earlier in the day to appoint a 15-member search committee led by the Rev. Nick Rouch, a trustee and the former vice president for mission and ministry at Gannon. The committee will be working with Witt/Kieffer, an executive search firm, to conduct the nationwide search for Gannon’s next president.

Some students said they don’t agree with the board’s choice to offer Garibaldi a sabbatical.

“If he wants to leave midway through the semester, that is fine,” said senior political science major Chad Heinz. “For me, it seems like between semesters is a good as any time to leave. The sabbatical is rough though, and I don’t agree with that. I don’t really know Dr. Kelly. I have never met him before – but if they chose him, I’m sure he is a good fit for the job.”

Taylor Corn, a senior mechanical engineering major, said he feels “mildly slighted” that Garibaldi will leave in December.

“I think it is unfortunate that Dr. Garibaldi is leaving so soon and that he should finish out the academic year as president of Gannon University,” Corn said.

Tom Panighetti, president of the Student Government Association and member of the search committee, said Kelly’s “tremendous” achievements at Gannon will make him a valuable interim president until the full-time candidate is found.

“I think Dr. Garibaldi been a great asset to Gannon for 9 ½ years and he is going to be very difficult to replace,” the senior political science major said. “Dr. Kelly is just a man who is dedicated to Gannon; he just kind of has this humility about himself… Dr. Kelly is dedicated to Gannon, and he has shown that he can do the job.”

ABBY BADACH

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A&L editor Theresa Pfister contributed to this story.