Wilder Refuses Job

By Cain, Andrew | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 29, 1998 | Go to article overview

Wilder Refuses Job


Cain, Andrew, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


RICHMOND - Four days before he was to take the helm, former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder announced yesterday he will not become president of Virginia Union University Aug. 1.

In recent weeks, Mr. Wilder, 67, caused a furor at his alma mater by demanding the resignations of a dozen top officials, including vice presidents, deans and the school's athletic director.

Trustees at the private, historically black school of 1,700 students balked, advising a go-slow approach. Mr. Wilder's announcement pre-empts a meeting today at which he was to discuss the rocky transition with the school's trustees.

Mr. Wilder said in a statement he hopes his announcement will end "any speculation of perceived disruption" at the university.

"There has been no suggestion from anyone at the university that I take this action," said Mr. Wilder, who stressed that he was "completely satisfied" with the contract he was offered.

"Though I deeply regret not returning to my alma mater at the helm, I will always be there for the university and give it support."

The turn of events adds another remarkable twist to the career of Virginia's most unpredictable politician. Mr. Wilder, the nation's first elected black governor, ran for president in 1992 then ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994 before bailing out of both contests.

Mr. Wilder served as Virginia's governor from 1990 to 1994. The school's board of trustees unanimously elected Mr. Wilder as the school's new president June 10.

Dr. Frank S. Royal, a Richmond physician who serves as chairman of the school's board of trustees, issued a statement praising Mr. Wilder.

"I regret that he will not assume the presidency of our alma mater," Mr. Royal said, "but I respect his decision and wish him well as he continues to pursue his personal interests.

"Leadership often requires difficult decisions. Gov. Wilder's outstanding career has been marked by his willingness to make such decisions, and I am certain he has made this one with the best interests of the university, its faculty, its alumni and the most important group of all - the students that we are educating - at heart."

However amicable the public statements, the divorce is a shattering turn of events for both the university and Mr. Wilder.

The former governor relished the opportunity to cap his career by presiding over his alma mater from his plush office in the L. Douglas Wilder Library, decorated with hundreds of photographs of Mr. …

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