By Sara Coello and Amanda Jesse
Thomas Keefe’s controversial tenure as president of the University of Dallas will end after this term, after the university’s Board of Trustees elected to begin a search for a new president in a vote.
Dr. Thomas M. Zellers sent a letter to faculty this morning making the announcement official.
“After careful consideration and prayer, the University of Dallas Board of Trustees has determined that the university would benefit from a change in leadership in order to continue to grow and maintain its position as one of the nation’s leading Catholic universities,” Zeller wrote in an email on behalf of the board.
Keefe, the university’s eighth president, began his term in March 2010.
The following eight years were marked by significant changes to the university’s physical appearance — with the addition of two major new buildings, SB Hall and Cardinal Farrell Hall.
But they also included high-profile clashes with faculty over Keefe’s plans to raise revenue for the school. Keefe abandoned a plan to introduce a so-called New College for continuing education after a large number of faculty members and many alumni insisted it would diminish the school’s tradition of academic excellence. Multiple parcels of the university’s land were also sold throughout his presidency.
The “New College” plan came in response to financial difficulties for the university.
In 2017, members of Keefe’s administration confirmed that the university ran a deficit of $1.7 million for the 2016 fiscal year, attributing the deficit to lower enrollment in the College of Business than expected.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News in March 2010, Keefe expressed a desire to grow the endowment, as well as to encourage “careful, planned growth” in enrollment.
Executive Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Dr. John Plotts will likely serve as acting president in Keefe’s absence as the search is conducted as he would in any other absence, Cliff Smith, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, said.
“As we all move forward, it is important that we speak only positively of president Keefe and the good things that he has done for the University,” Interim Dean of Constantin College Dr. Sally Hicks wrote in an email sent exclusively to faculty. “If we keep the good in mind throughout this transition period, then our alumni, donors, parents and current students will also focus on the good.”
This article has been edited for clarity.