Still Suspended, Westfield State’s Dobelle Picks Retirement

Suspended Westfield State University president Evan Dobelle has retired.

Dobelle informed the university’s board of trustees of his retirement, effective immediately, in a letter on Friday. He had been at odds with trustees over criticism that he charged personal expenses on university credit cards and spent lavishly on foreign travel.

The board voted to suspend him with pay last month. Dobelle responded by filing a federal lawsuit against trustees and the state’s higher education commissioner.

In the letter, released by a public relations firm hired by Dobelle, he said his decision to retire was the result of what he called the university’s failure to abide by the terms of his contract. He expressed gratitude to faculty, students and others for their support and friendship during his six years as president.

- Associated Press

Dobelle’s letter:

Dear Trustees:

It is with a tremendous sense of accomplishment that, after twenty-five years in higher education, I have decided to retire from my position as President of Westfield State University. Accordingly, I hereby submit this letter of resignation as President of the University, effective immediately.

Throughout my term as President, I have been pleased to work with an exceptional campus community on a broad range of initiatives that will continue to bear fruit for the University in the years to come. However, the unnecessary and unfortunate distractions of the last several months have led me to conclude that the only appropriate path for the University is one which will allow it to move forward unencumbered by such diversions. This path will provide a means by which the University can emerge, before the spring semester begins, from the recent torrent of gratuitous media attention and can get back to focusing its efforts and energies where they are best put to use – for the benefit of the students, faculty, and a decidedly bright future.

Of course, this was not my chosen path at this particular time. It is instead the result of the University’s actions and failure to abide by the terms of my contract. Included among these actions is the so-called “administrative leave” on which I am currently placed, which is not permitted by my contract and has the effect of making it impossible for me to do my job. By unilaterally changing the terms and conditions of my employment, the University has led me to take this action. Although I understand that my contract contemplates a longer period of notice, I have been led to believe that, under the current circumstances, my immediate retirement would be welcomed and would expedite the release of the money to fund the new academic building, which would be the first in over 40 years at the university.

To the extended Westfield State Community, faculty, staff, administration, students, and alumni, I thank you for your support and friendship over these years. I extend my sincere gratitude for all we have accomplished together, and wish unlimited successes in all of your endeavors.

Sincerely,

Evan S. Dobelle
President

Westfield State University’s statement:

“Because of ongoing litigation, on advice of counsel the University will not be commenting on President Dobelle’s retirement.  Details about the timeframe and process for selecting a new president will be announced in the coming weeks.”

Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland’s statement:

“I believe President Dobelle’s decision is in the best interest of Westfield State University. I look forward to working with new leadership to advance the mission of teaching and learning at the University.”