Kentucky State University President Raymond Burse, who led the school as the ninth president and returned as the 14th, has resigned for a second time from the embattled Frankfort school.
Burse, who left the first time for a long career at General Electric Co., was rehired two years ago to return the historically black university to firmer financial footing after years of declining enrollment and financial problems.
Burse changed numerous administrative roles and took action on issues including unpaid tuition, which in 2014 had caused a $7 million shortfall. He also got national attention for donating $90,000 of his $350,000 salary to help raise the salaries of the lowest-paid workers to $10.25 an hour.
But his hard-charging style upset many people at Kentucky State, resulting in two lawsuits and numerous complaints from faculty and staff.
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Earlier this year, he announced that the school might have to close because of state budget cuts, a statement he later took back. In the end, legislators excluded the school from statewide budget cuts.
In a statement issued Monday, Burse claimed success.
“Under my leadership, KSU is back on the path to excellence,” Burse said. “At this juncture, I have decided that the further demands and challenges of Kentucky State must be undertaken by new leadership. I have come to this conclusion after nearly six months of personal assessments and evaluations, which has resulted in my resignation as president, effective May 27, 2016.”
Karen Bearden, chairwoman of the board of regents, declined to comment on the resignation or on a search process for the next leader.
Gov. Matt Bevin thanked Burse for his service to the university in a statement Monday evening.
“We appreciate the many years of leadership and commitment that Dr. Burse has invested in the KSU community,” Bevin said. “Because of his love for the students, he accepted an immense challenge and is leaving things better than how he found them. His thoughtful leadership will be missed. We wish him all the very best in his retirement.”
Candice Jackson, vice president of academic affairs, will serve as acting president, Kentucky State officials said. On May 31, the Board of Regents will meet to discuss the process for replacing Burse.
State Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, who teaches criminal justice and business law at Kentucky State, said he was surprised by the news.
“I had no idea this was coming,” Thomas said.
Burse and Thomas were both in the 1978 Harvard Law School graduating class, and Thomas said he helped recruit Burse to come back to Kentucky State.
Thomas said Burse made numerous steps to extract Kentucky State from its financial chaos.
“There was some grumbling, but I think he had as many supporters as he did detractors,” Thomas said. “I think there were a lot of reasonable people who understood he had to make tough choices. I think he was one of Kentucky State’s finest presidents.”
Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, oversees the House budget committee on postsecondary education.
“I think President Burse did a good job under very difficult circumstances,” Thomas said. “He went about a very methodical process to deal with the challenges Kentucky state must overcome to remain a viable part of our higher education system.”