President Robert Henry is missing the beginning of the academic year while he is on a medical leave of absence until October. When he returns, he will only be in office until June when he plans to retire.
Henry had open-heart surgery three years ago, and, though the surgery went well, “follow-up action was required to ensure optimal ongoing health,” he wrote in an Aug. 3 email sent to the campus community.
“The world’s best are at Cleveland Clinic, so that’s where I’m going,” Henry wrote.
Henry’s leave began Aug. 7. While he’s away, Provost Kent Buchanan will serve as acting president. Buchanan said during Stars Week that Henry’s surgery went well and he is recovering.
Students applauded Henry for taking time for his health.
“I think he’s doing what’s best for his personal well-being, and I respect his decision to take a hiatus,” said Emily Jones, dance performance junior. “All the power to him.”
Henry became the university’s 17th president in 2010, after being a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General and serving as Chief Judge on the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. He announced this summer his plans to retire his presidency after June 2018 to focus on health.
A presidential search committee was formed to find his replacement. Ron Norick, chairman of the board of trustees, will lead the committee, along with dance Professor Kelli Rhodes-Steven as vice chairwoman.
Trustees on the committee are Martha Burger, Phil G. Busey Sr., Jane Jayroe Gamble, Gary Homsey, Ann Johnstone, Bill Junk, and Bishop Jimmy Nunn.
Full-time faculty members on the committee are nursing Professor Diana Blackmon, theater Professor Jason Foreman, business Professor Meredith Wegner, and religion Professor Leslie Long.
General Counsel Casey Ross, nursing Dean Lois Salmeron, and Joey Croslin, chief human resources officer, make up the rest of the committee.
Norick appointed the committee’s trustee, cabinet and dean’s positions while the Faculty Senate Executive Committee appointed the full-time faculty members, according to an Aug. 17 email from the university communications office.
The committee will provide a list of two to four candidates. The new president will be selected by a recommendation from the executive committee and a formal vote by the board of trustees. There is not a date for when this is to happen yet.
After Henry steps down, he will take a one-year sabbatical before returning to teach in the law school.
Kayla McKenna, mass communications senior, said she’s pleased with Henry’s decision to continue teaching, even after he retires as president.
“I think it’s cool that our university president, even though he’s stepping down, is wanting to give back to the school,” she said.