STEGER TO STEP DOWN
BY KARIN KAPSIDELIS Richmond Times-Dispatch
Charles W. Steger, who oversaw Virginia Tech at a time of major growth but also its greatest tragedy, today announced his retirement.
After 14 years he described as “a nanosecond,” Steger told students, faculty and staff in an email that he will step down after his replacement is found. The university said the board of visitors will assemble a search committee immediately.
Steger, scheduled to deliver Tech’s commencement speech Friday, said he has been “doubly blessed” to spend virtually his entire career at the university.
“As a three-time graduate of this institution, Virginia Tech has afforded me the tools for leadership and personal fulfillment,” he said in a statement.
His announcement came weeks after the state Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision and said it will hear arguments that Steger should be put on trial for his actions during the 2007 campus massacre.
Attorneys for the families of two students who were among the 32 killed by student Seung-Hui Cho want the court to hold Steger accountable for the delay in alerting the campus after the first two shootings. Cho killed himself after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The university cited Steger’s accomplishments during his tenure: Tech’s research portfolio increased by more than 300 percent; enrollment grew from 27,869 to 31,087; more than $1 billion was raised in private funding; and more than 2.5 million square feet of buildings were added.
“We sadly accept President Steger’s desire to step down as president,” said Tech’s rector, Mike Quillen, said in a statement.
Quillen said Steger has had a long and successful tenure "but we understand his desire to ratchet back the extraordinary commitment of a major university president.”
In the legal legacy of the mass shootings, the state Supreme Court in June is expected to hear a consolidated appeal of a negligence verdict reached in March 2012 in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The parents of Erin Nicole Peterson and Julian K. Pryde were awarded $4 million each, which was later reduced to the cap on damages against the state to $100,000 each. The state was the lone defendant in the trial.
The Supreme Court, which already had agreed to hear the state's appeal of the negligence verdict, did not explain its decision to hear the parents' arguments to include Steger in the case, which the justices had rejected in late February.
Steger initially had been named in the parents' lawsuit but was exempted before trial on a legal technicality.
With total compensation of $857,749, Steger is the best-paid of Virginia’s public university presidents and ranks seventh nationally on a Chronicle of Higher Education report on salaries of top executives at public institutions.
Blogger’s Comment: Steger is “suddenly” stepping down because Virginia Tech does not want the bad publicity associated with its president being tried for his role in the April 16, 2007 massacre.