Note: This story was updated to include an email sent out by the university.
Michael Shonrock’s presidency was terminated Friday afternoon after Lindenwood’s board of trustees met behind closed doors for more than four hours.
Shonrock, who has been president since 2015, was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday after he was given a letter from the university’s attorney, Troy Perdue.
No reason for the action was given in the letter or has been stated publicly since then.
Around 6:30 p.m. Friday, the university sent out an email with a message from Board Chairman J. Michael Conover, announcing Shonrock’s departure and reiterating that Art Johnson will serve as interim president. Board member David Cosby has replaced Johnson as vice chairman, and a search committee has been formed to find a new president. The email refers to Johnson as a “former board member”, suggesting that he has stepped down to serve as president.
Several trustees who were questioned as they left the meeting declined to comment. But Shonrock’s attorney, Jerry Dobson, confirmed that Shonrock had been terminated.
I don’t appreciate @LindenwoodU lack of transparency. I am a student-athlete here. Thank you to @Lindenlink for keeping everyone as updated as possible… The sudden termination of our previous president may have been justified, but we deserve to be informed #ShonrockvLU
— Madelynn Klein Courville (@MadelynnKlein) February 8, 2019
Trustees were originally supposed to meet in the J. Scheidegger Center, but moved the meeting to their regular boardroom on the fourth floor of the Spellmann Center.
In anticipation of the meeting in Spellmann, Public Safety blocked the staircase, stationed people in the elevators and moved 11 classes to other buildings.
The first board members started arriving shortly before noon. More than a dozen students gathered in the third floor atrium, some curious, some angry at the lack of information about why Shonrock had been placed on leave.
“I came up here hoping for transparency from the board of trustees,” Mason McBride said. “I’m hoping that they release the facts to the students and let them make their own decisions, rather than leaving them behind closed doors.”
Dean of Student Life and Diversity Shane Williamson first told students gathered that they had to go outside in the 20-degree weather “to voice their opinion,” but never enforced it.
Belleville campus’ Student Government President Austin Bearden also waited for word about Shonrock. He said after former Belleville President Brett Barger, left his position and Shonrock assumed the presidency for both campuses, students never were officially notified of the change.
“From a Belleville perspective, we have lost two presidents at this point,” he said. “Our first one, still no answer three months later.”
Bearden said when Barger left, he was concerned that the Belleville campus would close, but he said he was assured by executives at Belleville that wouldn’t happen.
“I embraced change personally,” he said. “I just think there has to be a reason for change and an explanation for change, and we haven’t gotten that.”
Here is the message released by the University through an email Friday night:
“Effective February 8, 2019, Dr. Michael Shonrock is leaving his position as president of Lindenwood University. The Board of Trustees has appointed Art Johnson, former board member and vice chairman, to serve as the interim president. The Board of Trustees has also named current board member, David Cosby as vice chairman and formed a search committee to identify Lindenwood University’s next president. Mr. Johnson has already met with several members of the faculty and staff. He is excited about the tremendous passion, commitment and professionalism demonstrated in support of the University and the continued focus on enhancing the lives of our students by delivering a high quality education. Lindenwood University is a great place and the entire Board of Trustees thank you for your service to our students by creating real experiences leading to real life success.”
Kayla Drake, Mitchell Kraus, Madeline Raineri and Matt Hampton contributed to this story.
Editor’s note: Shane Williamson’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this article.