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WVU president Clements leaving for Clemson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After nearly five years as president of West Virginia University, Jim Clements announced Monday that he's leaving WVU for Clemson University.

During a press conference at Clemson on Monday, which was streamed live on the university's website, Clements called the South Carolina school "one of the greatest land-grant research universities in the country."

"Clemson truly is a gem in higher education. It really is," Clements said. "I want to thank the board of trustees and search committee for believing in me and my family ... I can't wait to work with the students -- that's why we do what we do. I know the students here are top-notch. We recruit the best."

Clements' starting salary at Clemson will be $775,000, the same as his current salary at WVU, according to Clemson University's media relations department. When he started at WVU in 2009, Clements received an annual salary of $450,000.

He was chosen from a pool of 83 candidates and will officially start in January, Clemson said.

Beth Clements, the WVU president's wife, has family members who live near Clemson.

Clements succeeds James Barker, who announced his retirement in April after serving 14 years as Clemson president. Barker's salary as president was $471,213, according to Clemson officials.

After Monday's announcement, Clements wrote an open letter to the WVU community, saying when he was first called about the job, he "simply responded that I love WVU, the students, faculty and staff and the community."

"I wasn't looking to leave WVU ... however, after much thought, reflection and prayer, Beth and I decided that this is an opportunity that we couldn't pass up," Clements says in the letter. "When my family arrived at WVU we didn't realize how much we would fall in love with the state and the university. Beth and I knew that it would be very difficult for any university to convince us to leave WVU. However, Clemson is a university that is very special to our family."

WVU Board of Governors Chairman James W. Dailey II said WVU will soon announce plans for an interim president and will conduct a nationwide search for Clements' replacement.

The search for a new president could take "between a month and as many as six to eight months" depending on the number of candidates, Dailey said.

"With the national exposure that not only Mr. Clements had, but the university has, this will be really good for us. I would suspect we'll get some pretty exciting candidates from this search because of the foundation Clements has laid and the direction the university is going," Dailey said.

"Jim is a natural born leader -- someone who understands the higher education climate. He is committed to excellence. He stands for integrity and is a champion for university and its diverse audiences -- from students and their parents, to faculty and staff, to donors and funders, to city, state and federal lawmakers, to opinion leaders, to our state's citizens and others," Dailey said.

Dailey said candidates for both interim president and permanent president could be a WVU employee, "someone deeply involved in the university in some capacity," or "a complete outsider."

In 2008, the interim president hired between former WVU president Michael Garrison and Jim Clements' terms was Peter Magrath -- at the time, the senior advisor of the College Board and a former president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges in Washington, D.C.

When Clements came to WVU, it was in the midst of much controversy. His predecessor, Garrison, had resigned after a degree scandal involving then-Gov. Joe Manchin's daughter, Heather Bresch.

During Clements' tenure, he oversaw big moments for the school, including the athletic department's move into the Big 12 Conference, and a campus overhaul involving a slew of construction projects.

Dailey didn't know if WVU would hire a search firm to help conduct the selection process.

"If you get 25 résumés from highly qualified candidates from all over the country without soliciting, there would be no need to hire one," he said. "On the other hand, many times firms have a pool of candidates they always have in their hip pocket -- people who very privately have put their name out if something comes up but don't want the intuition they currently work for to know they're searching."

Clemson Board of Trustees Chairman David Wilkins said Monday, "Dr. Clements is a distinguished scholar, a nationally recognized voice in higher education and a proven leader who understands the unique mission of land-grant universities. We are confident he is the right person to lead Clemson University to the next level as a great public research university."

During Monday's press conference, Clements vowed to help Clemson achieve its capital campaign goal of $1 billion, saying that during his time at WVU, he "modeled Clemson's leadership" to lead the school's similar $750 million campaign and strategic plan.

"At WVU we followed Clemson's lead in developing a 10-year action-oriented strategic vision," he said. "I can't wait to work with you -- including that capital campaign. I promise you we will meet and exceed that goal. A lot of people worked so hard on that and it's all for our students and for advancing our institution."

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.


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