Grandillo & Winslow resign; Eck elected interim president

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Benjamin Wilks

Interim President Eck greets students after the meeting designed to explain the current situation of leadership.

Leah Ulatowski, Copy Editor

The Lakeland College community received the sudden news of President Michael A. Grandillo’s resignation on Tuesday, March 12, while the institution was undergoing its annual weeklong Spring Break.

Former Sr. Vice President Dan Eck will serve indefinitely as interim president of the college. Eck also confirmed Director of Athletics and Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, whose relationship with the former president brought him to campus, resigned within days of Grandillo.

The basis for Grandillo’s resignation after nine months in office was explained as a collective decision between Grandillo and the Board of Trustees due to “philosophical differences.”

Since the conclusion of spring vacation, the institution’s top administrators and directors, along with Eck, have been working to better inform and console the Lakeland community.

“I have a lot of faith in [Eck]. I have always really appreciated his insight, his integrity, and his team spirit—he really is a collaborative person,” Meg Albrinck, Lakeland College dean, said. “I know Dr. and Mrs. Grandillo brought some really good ideas to enliven the campus and what I want students and the community to know is I don’t think those good ideas will be lost in the transition.

“I know it is hard and surprising, but… I have control in how I respond to the future.”

Some Lakeland students were perturbed by the news, taking to Facebook to express concern. Even a petition to bring the former president back was started by sophomore Elizabeth Zimmerman on the social media website.

“I think it is safe to say that literally everyone employed by this college was stunned by the news,” David Gallianetti, director of communications, said. “The fact that it happened during Spring Break made it challenging to communicate with students and faculty.”

Gallianetti expressed that the press had been tipped off by a reliable source before the college even made its employees aware of the changes on Tuesday, Gallianetti receiving the news only the night before. Such factors contributed to the difficulty in reaching the Lakeland community before they heard the news second hand.

While they could not say goodbye personally, the Grandillos wish Lakeland well.

“Students at Lakeland are great; they have a great future,” former President Michael A. Grandillo, who is temporarily in the immediate Sheboygan area, said in a phone interview. “I want to be as supportive of the college as possible and I look forward to hearing great things about the college in the future, and [my wife] Nancy joins me in that sentiment. Keep positive, please!”

“We are sorry about the way things worked out, but we love you guys and we know you will carry on,” Nancy Grandillo, wife of the former president, said in a separate phone interview.

Two meetings were held on campus to inform the Lakeland community about the transitions. A faculty/staff meeting was held March 19 and a student meeting was conducted on March 21.

The student meeting consisted of Eck, Albrinck, Vice President for Student Development Nate Dehne, and Assistant Director of Athletics April Arvan answering questions directly from students. It also served as a chance for them to meet Eck, many for the first time.

Eck confirmed with students that he had resigned from his job as sr. vice president and was transitioning to another job when called back by the Board to serve as interim president.

When a student questioned whether his decision to leave and willingness to return was “contradictory,” Eck responded, “No. I was sad to leave and I’m happy to be back.”

Concern was also expressed regarding Winslow’s tentative role at the college. Arvan said she would do all in her power to fill the gaps, along with the other coaches.

While the Board and administrators do not feel conducting a presidential search is the best option right now, the hiring of a new Director of Athletics will be handled with more immediacy.

While Winslow will not be employed by the college, he is in talks to serve as a consultant.

Eck indicated the absence of Board representatives at the meetings was a collective decision made in order to focus on questions directed at him.

The most visited topic was that of the Board of Trustees.

Many students expressed doubt in the trustees’ recent decisions and ability to understand their needs as members are spread throughout the country and none are under the age of 40.

“I know it is hard to understand [due to] the emotionality of this decision,” Dehne said. “The information [the Board] takes from us and the trust that they have in us, coupled with their experience, help make these decisions for the institution.”

Dehne said the trustees are people of esteemed reputations who understand how to direct an organization.

Dehne said the Board has never put off that which is important to students, and they even consult with student representative sophomore Braden Woods. The trustees’ residence throughout the country also opens Lakeland up to ideas outside the community.

“How is it that the board of trustees is going to function [going forward]? We can’t continue getting rid of presidents because they did not agree with the board of trustees’ philosophies,” shouted out a student from the audience of about 70.

“I can assure you there is a lot of soul searching going on, but I can also tell you this is a highly unusual event for this board of trustees,” Eck said. “They are incredibly cooperative and on the same page. If there is any worry we aren’t learning from these mistakes, you should know there is a lot of discussion about what happened and what we are going to do differently.”

When Eck expressed plans to apply many of Grandillo’s ideas to his presidency, a student quipped that it would not be possible because the Board would prompt him to resign.

“We need to be careful we don’t repeat history,” Eck said. “I have been in communication with the Board since day one to ensure we are on the same page.”

In a March 20 letter addressed to faculty, Eck stated he does not know the exact differences that resulted in Grandillo’s resignation, and is expressing concern to the trustees regarding this.

Eck assured, however, he is not entirely “blind” to the situation.

Sr. Vice President and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees Peter N. Reddin said in a phone interview that several representatives from the Board will hold an open forum for students “within the next couple of weeks” and that “the answers that are able to be given will be forthcoming.”

Reddin said that there will be some questions they simply cannot answer, but that the Board desires to go forward with a number of Grandillo’s ideas and “[some differences were] simply a question of timing and finances.”

“The Board is very informed, involved, and in tune from keeping in touch with administrators,” Reddin said, “but ultimately it is the Board’s responsibility to manage the affairs of the college.

“While this whole issue seemed quick, it was actually a few months in the making and the outcome was something the Board tried diligently to avoid.”

When asked whether Winslow’s potential resignation was discussed during the proceedings that ultimately led to Grandillo’s resignation, Reddin replied, “Not to my knowledge.”

In a private interview Eck said the current focus is to ensure that the college and students get what they need and that the transitions do not cause a major upset in flow, which he says they have not.

Eck hopes to strengthen ties with the United Church of Christ. He also hopes to grow enrollment and further improve the adult education and international programs. Eck even desires to continue Winslow’s wellness program. He hopes to carry out a number of Grandillo’s ideas, especially those that benefit students the most.

“I’m not here to promote [my] vision,” Eck said. “It is a collective vision; no one person will get everything they want.”

While the thought of becoming the sixteenth president has crossed his mind, “That’s not important. I can’t be campaigning right now. If things work out, then great. If not, then I’m still a happy guy because I work at Lakeland,” Eck said.

When asked if an interim president has all the power of a full fledge one, Eck said, “In terms of abilities and authorities, it is the same. While I do have a certain amount of credibility, influence is not bought with a title.”