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Corts quits college post

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Thomas Corts resigned Wednesday as chancellor of the state’s troubled two-year college system.

Announcement of the resignation came through Gov. Bob Riley, who received Corts’ resignation letter Wednesday afternoon. The resignation took effect immediately.

Corts asked Riley to release the one-paragraph letter, which reads:

“I hereby resign my position as Interim Chancellor of the Department of Postsecondary Education of the State of Alabama, effective this date. You have great plans and desires for our state, and I sincerely hope that the colleges and entities of the Department of Postsecondary Education may be helpful in their accomplishment of those goals. I respect your high standards and have appreciated the opportunity to work with you and your staff during these months.”

‘Incredible integrity’

In a prepared statement, Riley said he deeply regrets that Corts, “a man of incredible integrity and talent,” decided to resign.

“All along, I felt he was the right person for this job at the right time,” Riley said. “His reputation for honesty and excellence remains unchallenged. I wish him the best. Now it’s up to the board to move forward — and quickly — to find someone of equal caliber who will take this important job.”

Corts assumed the post-secondary job in July after the state Board of Education dismissed former two-year Chancellor Roy Johnson. Questions about family member hiring practices and outside contracts in Johnson’s administration led to a federal investigation of the system.

Corts, retired president of Samford University in Birmingham, said in repeated news stories that he believed the board has too much on its plate trying to handle oversight of the K-12 system and also two-year colleges.

Board members countered that Corts needed to discuss his thoughts on the subject with them, not the news media.

Board member Mary Jane Caylor, D-Huntsville, said she expects the board to convene “in very short order, probably within 48 hours,” to appoint an interim chancellor because someone has to be in place to make decisions for the system.

“I am certainly in the dark,” Caylor said. “Dr. Corts hasn’t contacted me.”

Caylor said the board did not fire Corts.

“The board did not take any adverse action,” she said. “Tom Corts made his own decision.”

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