Engler’s first moves costly at MSU

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

In just 12 days as interim president, John Engler made five high-level appointments and added three major contracts as he attempts to move Michigan State University past the Larry Nassar scandal.

Engler created three new positions of assistant provost or higher and hired a public relations firm, a law firm and a private investigative firm.


The combined cost of those moves is almost certain to exceed $1 million per year, although MSU declined to disclose some details pending formal responses to public records requests.

Engler is serving without a contract, according to longtime aide John Truscott, president of the Truscott Rossman public relations firm, which signed a deal with MSU this week.

“He hit the ground in full sprint mode and hasn’t looked back,” Truscott said. “Usually someone is hired and then they negotiate the contract for a while. There was no luxury to do that in this case.”

Engler was named interim president effective Feb. 5 following the resignation of President Lou Anna Simon. She stepped down six days after a Detroit News report showed that she was aware of sexual misconduct complaints against an MSU sports doctor in 2014 and that several others at the university had received reports of Nassar’s alleged abuse of athletes over two decades.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Larry Nassar scandal roils MSU

Nassar pleaded guilty to child pornography and to molesting a fraction of the nearly 240 women who now say he abused them under the guise of treating their injuries.

Engler’s swift organizational moves have done little to placate MSU faculty, whose senate overwhelmingly last week voted no confidence in university trustees.

“I think a lot of people don’t really know what’s going on,” said Phylis Floyd, an art history professor and member of the University Committee on Faculty Affairs. “The faculty is very unhappy that he was appointed.”

Engler, Michigan’s Republican governor from 1991 to 2003 and recently president of the Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C., addressed trustees Friday.

“We’ve got a lot to do,” he said. “The criminal has gone to jail, but there is a lot of litigation, investigations about what was missed, what to put in place. That has thrust MSU into the national conversation into the #MeToo the question of sexual assault on campus.”

MSU’s new vice president


Engler announced on Feb. 2 that his longtime political aide, Carol Morey Viventi, would be named to the newly created position of vice president and special counsel to the president. Trustees on Friday approved her yearly salary of $250,000.

Engler said Viventi would “move swiftly and decisively to implement changes to protect everyone affiliated with our campus.”

She previously served as deputy director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and was the first woman and ethnic minority to serve as secretary of the Michigan Senate.

Prior to that, Viventi served as deputy chief of staff and counsel to the cabinet for Engler, whom she first served as an aide after his election to the state House of Representatives in 1970.

She has a bachelor of arts in divisional social science from MSU and a law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School..

New associate provost for health

Ten days into his tenure, Engler announced appointments to two newly created health positions.


He selected Dr. Norman Beauchamp Jr., dean of the the MSU College of Human Medicine, to be associate provost and assistant vice president for health affairs.

Among Beauchamp’s new responsibilities will be to increase safety and quality practices in all of MSU’s health care services, Engler said, including student health clinics, physical therapy and trainers for student-athletes.

MSU did not provide details on Beauchamp’s new or former salary, but he was first appointed dean in 2016 with a yearly salary of $475,000 per year.

Beauchamp previously chaired the Department of Radiology at the University of Washington, where he worked from 2002-16. He also served as chairman of the faculty senate and was president of the university’s clinical practice of 1,600 physicians.

New assistant provost for health


Engler also selected one of Beauchamp’s former University of Washington medical colleagues to the new position of assistant provost for student health, wellness and safety and MSU HealthTeam chief medical officer.

Dr. Anthony M. Avellino, currently the CEO of OSF Healthcare Illinois Neurological Institute in Peoria, worked at the University of Washington from 2009 through 2014. Trained as a pediatric neurosurgeon, he was chief of neurological surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center and director of the university’s neurosciences institute.

Avellino was compensated $1.14 million for his work for OSF in 2015, according to the most recent publicly available tax filings from OSF Healthcare, a health organization owned and operated by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.

MSU did not provide details on his salary pending a formal response to a public records request.

Interim dean for osteopathic medicine

Andrea Amalfitano, director of the university’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, was appointed interim dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, succeeding William Strampel.


Nassar’s former boss, Strampel stepped down as dean and is on medical leave, although Engler announced last week that he would seek to revoke his tenure for reasons he did not disclose. A Detroit News investigation found that Strampel was one of at least 14 staff members at MSU who received reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar in the two decades before the former sports doctor’s arrest.

MSU trustees approved Amalfitano’s appointment and raise to $325,000 per year.

Amalfitano serves as a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics and pediatrics. He previously served as as an associate professor at Duke University in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Pathology, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.

Interim athletic director


Engler named Bill Beekman as interim athletic director following the retirement of Mark Hollis, at a salary of $400,000 per year.

Beekman has been Michigan State’s vice president and secretary of the board of trustees since 2008. After Simon’s resignation on Jan. 24, Beekman briefly served as the acting president. He will remain vice president and secretary of the board while serving as interim athletic director.

Beekman joined MSU in 1995 as an administrator with the MSU HealthTeam and has an MBA from Northwestern University, a law degree from Wayne State University and graduated from MSU’s James Madison College.

Engler hires PR firm

Upon his appointment, Engler moved swiftly to secure Truscott of the Truscott Rossman public relations firm. In addition to crisis communications for MSU, Truscott is helping Engler with media relations.


Truscott said he signed a three-month contract with MSU for $325 an hour.

If he worked exclusively on MSU-related matters, the contract would be worth more than $150,000. But that’s not likely, he said.

“A crisis is typically heavy up front and then tapers off,” Truscott said in an email.

Truscott reports directly to Engler, whom he served for more than a decade as press secretary when Engler was governor.

“We are not doing the normal day-to-day communications for MSU,” Truscott said. “They have a full team for that and do a very good job.”

Truscott earned his bachelor’s degree in communication with a major in political science from MSU.

Kroll investigates cases

At Engler’s direction, the university’s Office of Institutional Equity hired the Kroll corporate investigation firm of New York to help investigate Title IX relationship violence and sexual misconduct cases.

Reports of sexual assault and harassment at MSU increased by 35 percent between the academic year 2015-16 and 2016-17, according to the university. Officials expect that number to continue to climb as more victims feel comfortable reporting incidents.

“We are taking active steps to make MSU a shining example of Title IX compliance; 80 days is not only far too long for a response to a complaint, it’s totally unacceptable,” Engler said this week.

MSU declined to disclose the terms of that contract, including hourly and maximum total compensation, pending its formal response to a News request.

Blanchard law firm


MSU will pay the law firm of former Democratic Gov. Jim Blanchard $50,000 a month to represent it in federal investigations in Washington related to the Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

Engler hired Blanchard’s firm despite fears by some Michigan congressional lawmakers about potential conflicts of interest. Blanchard and the global law firm of which he is partner, DLA Piper, will be providing counsel on government affairs to MSU that would include advising on the university’s response to a growing number of congressional probes. Engler initially said he would tap Blanchard as an adviser.

One contract covers MSU’s representation before the U.S. Congress and its committees for the next year for a retainer of $25,000 a month, and the other covers the federal executive branch and its departments for $25,000 a month.