Jack Lessenberry resigns as head of Wayne State journalism program

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
Jack Lessenberry

Jack Lessenberry has resigned his position as head of Wayne State University’s journalism program, he confirmed Friday.

“I concluded that I could no longer be effective in the current environment, and decided the best thing to do was to retire, so that my colleagues, who I deeply respect, could get on with plans for the fall semester,” he told The Detroit News in an email. 

“I had intended to retire from teaching next May, when I would have turned 67 and my current contract expired, but felt it was best to do so now.  Additionally, I also will have a new issues-oriented radio show on 910 AM beginning July 9, and that would have prevented me from teaching my normal winter courses.”

Lessenberry had not been teaching at the school following a recent Deadline Detroit report that detailed an alleged "long history of questionable behavior with women."

The former Detroit News foreign correspondent and national editor had not been suspended but a substitute was teaching his courses scheduled for the summer, Linda Galante, WSU’s associate general counsel, has said.

Lessenberry, who had been affiliated with Wayne State since 1993, informed the dean for the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts last month that he was voluntarily stepping aside from any instruction or student engagement, she said.

Meanwhile, WSU had received a complaint this March about an alleged incident that happened in 2005, but no action was taken because it was determined there was no misconduct.

An independent investigation has been launched with an outside party, but its status was unclear Friday. Galante and a school spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

News of Lessenberry’s departure quickly reached Lee Wilkins, professor and chair of the WSU communication department.

“We will go forward from here,” she said Friday. “Our first and most important goal is to make sure that the students get a first class education. That is what it has always been, and we will continue to make sure that that happens.”

Lessenberry faced professional upheaval immediately after Deadline Detroit reported allegations that he made inappropriate comments or paid undue attention to women while an editor at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis in the early 1990s and later as a journalism instructor at Wayne State.

He was suspended from, then quit as a columnist at Metro Times.

Lessenberry also resigned from his role as a political analyst for Michigan Radio.

The radio station 910 AM announced this month that Lessenberry, who has also served as the ombudsman and writing coach at the Toledo Blade, would have a two-hour morning show.

Kevin Adell, owner of 910 AM, said at the time that Lessenberry was a "good get" for the station and the accusations against him had not been proven.