President of Hastings College Abruptly Resigns

February 04, 2013

The president of Hastings College abruptly resigned on Friday, months before completing his second year in office, the private Nebraska institution's governing board announced on Monday. The board's chairman cited "philosophical differences" as the reason for the sudden departure of Dennis Trotter, who took office as president on June 1, 2011.

The same day Mr. Trotter formally resigned, the Board of Trustees unanimously elected Donald E. Jackson, the college's vice president for advancement, to replace him. Mr. Jackson's term is effective immediately.

The trustees had begun discussing Mr. Trotter's possible resignation at a regular board meeting two weeks ago, said Hal Dittmer, the board's chairman. Conversations continued into last week, he said, and the board nominated a successor.

"There were some differences in philosophy but not so major we thought it would lead to this transition," Mr. Dittmer said at a news conference on Monday. There was agreement among board members and the president about the vision for the institution, he said, but there were "modest differences of opinion" about the methods to achieve that goal.

Mr. Trotter's contract, which would have ended in May with the academic year, will continue to be honored with "no significant cost to the college," Mr. Dittmer said. He said there was an agreement that if Mr. Trotter would leave prematurely, there would be severance payment through May and "beyond that time."

Mr. Dittmer would not disclose the amount of the severance package or the terms of the contract.

"This wasn't a place where we fired him or something," he said. "We're very appreciative of what he did when he was here. He's a good person, a talented person, and so we're going beyond the contract."

Mr. Dittmer said he was unaware of Mr. Trotter's future plans. Mr. Trotter could not be reached for comment.

"Dennis was the right person at the right time," the board chairman said. "And, frankly, right now it's time for an operation-oriented, business-oriented person to carry us forward."

Mr. Jackson is a fit for the job, Mr. Dittmer said, because of his background as the global chief operating officer of Easter Seals Inc., a company devoted to helping disabled people and their families. Mr. Jackson is also an alumnus of Hastings College, a former trustee, and a former director of the Hastings College Foundation.

"Don is a man is accustomed to running large, complex organizations," Mr. Dittmer said. "And there are times when institutions need that type of a person."

Mr. Jackson, who plans to temporarily balance his new and former roles, said he was surprised and honored when asked to become president.

"I did not expect to be in this position today," he said. "This is sudden for me as well as it is for everyone. But I'm enthusiastic about the future of the college and confident we can move through this period of transition—and move quickly through it—in order to get where we need to be."