MSU ex-president Lou Anna Simon to retire, get $2.45 million

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Former Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon, who resigned during the fallout of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, is slated to retire Aug. 31 after 45 years, school officials announced Tuesday.

Under the terms of her retirement agreement, Simon will hold the titles of president emeritus and faculty emeritus and receive three annual payments for a total gross amount of $2.45 million as well as other benefits, the school said in a statement. 

Lou Anna Simon

The first installment is expected to be paid on the first university payroll distribution after her retirement date, according to the agreement. The second and third are after Jan. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021, respectively.

“Our campus community is continuing its healing, and the Board of Trustees feel the retirement of Dr. Simon is best for the university,” said Dianne Byrum, chairperson for the MSU Board of Trustees, in a statement Tuesday.

Simon, who joined MSU's faculty in 1974, served as president from 2005-18. 

She stepped down in January 2018 as more than 200 women and girls testified about Nassar's abuse in two courtrooms over nine days in Eaton and Ingham counties.

Simon was charged in November 2018 with four counts of lying to a peace officer — two felonies, two misdemeanors — as part of an investigation into Nassar by the Michigan State Police according to a state Attorney General's office warrant filed in Eaton County's district court.

The felony charges carry up to four years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Nassar was convicted of two courts of sexually abusing patients under the guise of medical treatment and in a third court for possessing child pornography. He is serving a de facto life sentence.

Simon returned to a tenured faculty position and last fall took a voluntary unpaid leave of absence while facing criminal charges in Eaton County.

The compensation package did not sit well with at least one of Nassar's victims.

"Institutions like Michigan State University should be setting an example by holding those who allowed perpetrators to continue abusing accountable. The fact that Lou Anna Simon is allowed to retire with dignity is unacceptable," said Grace French, a University of Michigan graduate who was assaulted by Nassar while a dancer in middle school, in a statement Tuesday.

The benefits, French, added, "could be going toward creating an environment at the university where survivors can feel supported and believed when speaking about their stories, or to create resources to help to heal survivors of sexual violence at the university.

"By allowing her to retire, MSU is invalidating the gravity of the situation, and letting the community and survivors know that the culture of abuse and lack of accountability will continue to be ignored at MSU."

John Manly, a California-based lawyer who has represented more than 200 victims who sued the university, called the deal "nauseating."

"How many children need to suffer before you think that somebody who was at the helm shouldn’t be rewarded?" he said.

Simon was succeeded by two interim presidents, John Engler and Satish Udpa. The MSU Board of Trustees has named Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley to become the university's permanent leader starting Aug. 1.

The retirement agreement states Simon still would be recognized with a presidential portrait, but "such public recognition of Dr. Simon's emeritus status may be withheld if the pending criminal charges result in a felony conviction that is upheld after all post-trial motions and appellate issues are finally adjudicated."

Prosecutors allege Simon was informed in a 2014 meeting with Title IX coordinator Paulette Granberry-Russell that Nassar was the subject of a sexual assault complaint, but lied about that knowledge in a 2018 interview with police.

Simon has maintained she was informed that a sports doctor was under review in 2014, but didn't know it was Nassar until 2016, when the media reported his name.

Last week, her preliminary examination ended with Eaton County District Court Judge Julie Reincke asking both sides to submit legal briefs outlining their arguments. The prosecution had 28 days to file after receiving transcripts of the seven days of testimony, which began in February. The defense had 21 days to file its arguments, followed by 14 days for prosecutors to respond to the defense's brief.

In June, Nassar's former boss, William Strampel, who was dean of MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine from 1999 to 2018 and retired after being charged by then-Attorney General Bill Schuette, was the first MSU official to be convicted of charges stemming from the scandal.

Former longtime head MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages is expected to return to court on charges that she lied to a peace officer about her knowledge of Nassar's crimes.

Meanwhile, the school is slated to hire an outside firm to examine the climate that allowed Nassar to prey on young women.

The investigation differs from an ongoing probe by the Michigan Attorney General's Office because it will review actions not considered criminal. It will also analyze what created a culture at MSU that allowed the serial pedophile to sexually abuse undetected for decades.

The investigation will be aimed at helping the school's board of trustees to identify who knew what about Nassar, how he was able to abuse and identify actions that might have involved neglect, violations of university protocol or other behaviors that need to be addressed.

Findings from the investigation  are expected to be made available to the public.