CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University President Jim Clements is leaving West Virginia to become the next president of Clemson University.
His departure from WVU and appointment at Clemson, a public land-grant university in South Carolina, was announced suddenly Monday morning. He begins sometime in January. The specific date hasn't been determined yet.
James Dailey, chairman of WVU's Board of Governors, said Monday that the university would announce an interim president in the coming weeks, and then a plan for filling the position in the long-term.
"We probably will not get that done in the next few days but that is obviously what we must do," Dailey said Monday afternoon. "And we certainly hope to find someone who can come in and have the same thought processes and the same direction."
In an open letter to the WVU community posted Monday morning, Clements, 49, said the chance to move to Clemson was an opportunity he "couldn't pass up."
His wife, Beth, has family near the university, and her two brothers are Clemson graduates.
"Beth and I knew that it would be very difficult for any university to convince us to leave WVU," Clements wrote. "However, Clemson is a university that is very special to our family."
Clements' annual salary at Clemson will be $775,000, the same it was at WVU, a Clemson representative said. He was selected from a field of 83 presidential candidates.
Dailey said he and other university administrators knew that Clements was pursued by "numerous educational institutions across the country" in recent months.
Dailey took that as evidence other universities noticed as Clements "developed himself into a national recognizable president who has taken WVU and done things with it that many other institutions are struggling with, whether it's their budgets, whether it's their student enrollment, whether it's their lack of fundraising or raising additional research dollars."
At the public announcement of his appointment to Clemson, which was streamed online from South Carolina, Clements said he and his family are "humbled that the board asked us to come and join one of the greatest land grant research universities in the country."
Clemson's profile as a public, land-grant institution is similar to WVU's. Clements also said Monday at Clemson that at WVU he modeled his "leadership ideas" after Clemson President James Barker, who he is now replacing.
At WVU, he said, administrators looked to Clemson as a template as they developed their 10-year strategic plan and fundraising efforts.
Clements came to WVU in the aftermath of a degree scandal that rocked the university and forced the departure of his predecessor, Mike Garrison, and other top administrators. When Clements came on in 2009 he was the university's third new president in as many years.
He oversaw a period of rapid change at the university: since 2009, WVU has moved into the Big 12 athletics conference and embarked on nearly $1 billion in construction projects. Enrollment grew -- so did tuition.
Clements' five-year tenure at WVU isn't far from the norm: the average tenure of a university president is 8.5 years, according to a report from the American Council on Education. But it's a disappointment for some
"While I hate to see the Clements' family leave, I do recognize the opportunity for a young, ambitious person like Jim," John Fahey, chairman of the WVU Alumni Association Board of Directors, said in a statement.
"Make no mistake we will search far and wide to find a president that has a sense of urgency and excitement much like Jim."
His departure comes as the university prepares for a second round of funding cuts from the state: higher education institutions underwent a 7.5 percent cut to state budget appropriations last year, and have been asked to submit budgets reflecting another 7.5 percent in cuts for next year.
When his departure was announced Monday, officials from across the state chimed in with statements of support. Clements was lauded for his success in fundraising, his role in shaping the direction of the university and his energy - the 49-year-old Clements was known on campus for exercising each morning at the student recreation center and as a sports fan.
Lisa Di Bartolomeo, chair of the Faculty Senate, said Clements won over the university's faculty early in his tenure - a departure from his controversial predecessor, President Garrison, who was twice the subject of a vote of no confidence from the faculty.
"The faculty accept President Clements as one of our own, especially as he has promoted an environment of trust and transparency, and encouraged shared governance at every turn," she said by e-mail.
In a statement Lisa Martin, president of WVU's Staff Council, said his decisions as president have also been generally well received by the university's classified staff.
"President Clements came to WVU at a time when we needed a positive leadership role model," she said. "He has done a great job of leading our university and positioning us to be in better shape than when he arrived."
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.