EMU president to ‘move on to the next chapter’ in July

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The reign of Eastern Michigan University’s longest-serving president in 15 years is coming to an end this summer, when President Susan Martin steps down.

EMU’s first female president announced Tuesday that she will resign in July — months before a successor is expected to be found.

Martin, 64, will return to the accounting and finance faculty in 2016, after a year-long sabbatical, and eight years after she became the university’s 22nd president.

A president who was popular with students but had struggles with some regents, Martin will leave a legacy of stabilizing the university and propelling growth while making a few missteps.

“It is time to move on to the next chapter of my life,” said Martin, who made the announcement during a university meeting. “The university is poised for future success with a great leadership team that is quite seasoned and capable.”

Martin is the longest-serving president at EMU since William Shelton, who led the school for 11 years until 2000. EMU is Michigan’s sixth-largest public university with 22,261 students, up from 21,926 in 2008.

Mike Morris, chairman of the EMU Board of Regents, said Martin came in during a difficult time and fostered stability and progress. She took over after former President John Fallon was fired in July 2007 amid accusations campus officials covered up the December 2006 rape and murder of student Laura Dickinson.

“She’s been a strong leader,” Morris said.

Morris credited Martin with increasing the caliber of EMU students by doubling the number of honor students, increasing enrollment and boosting ACT scores among applicants. Additionally, he said she was visible on campus, creating bonds with students and faculty, while leading successful $56 million fundraising effort and shepherding numerous building projects.

Also on her watch: Enhanced security with additional police officers, surveillance cameras and campus lighting. Student costs were held down, including a “0-0-0” initiative to freeze tuition, fees, and room and board in 2010-11. Martin also helped bring back the controversial Huron mascot after two decades, putting the school’s historic logo on the EMU Marching Band’s uniforms in 2012 to promote the university’s history and pride.

“Overall, I think Martin has been a good president — probably the best one since I came here in 1998,” English professor Steven Krause said. “She had a few missteps here and there, notably the often reported ‘inappropriate behavior’ incident at an alumnus function in 2012, but the board renewed her contract ... so all seems to have been forgiven there. She’s done a lot too in terms of building and remodeling projects on campus, and I have the impression that students liked her, too.”

Krause was referring to Martin’s 2013 contract extension, which was negotiated a year after the regents told her to address her public alcohol consumption or risk losing her job. The threat came in a letter that mentioned inappropriate behavior — including alcohol use and profanity — involving an alumnus in April 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Martin’s contract previously had been extended in 2010. Last October, the Board of Regents extended her contract until July 2016 and raised her salary from $300,000 to $340,000 a year.

Many students didn’t just like her, they loved her.

On the university’s Facebook page announcing the upcoming end to her presidency, one person wrote, “Nooo! She will be missed dearly! Best president ever.”

Howard Bunsis, treasurer of the EMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said Martin was dedicated to the university.

The union didn’t always agree with Martin. The AAUP expressed concerns with two issues during Martin’s tenure: the disproportionate investment of funds in athletics versus core curriculum and EMU’s involvement with the Education Achievement Authority — an authority created by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011 to turn around failing schools.

“The schools with EAA do not follow best practices in how we educate and how we train teachers,” Bunsis said. “It has severely damaged the reputation of Eastern Michigan.”

A search for a successor, headed up by Regent Michelle Crumm, will begin immediately, Morris said. An interim president probably will be named.

“Dr. Martin took over at Eastern during a very critical time in its history,” Regent Jim Stapleton said. “She, along with lots of people, including our board at the time and an engaged group of faculty and staff, helped stabilize the institution. Now, Eastern can go to the next level.”


Martin’s student outreach

EMU President Susan is known for being popular with students. Watch a video of her taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with some of them last August at YouTube.