- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2007

American University interim President Cornelius Kerwin was named to the position permanently yesterday after leading the school in the aftermath of a spending scandal that forced his predecessor to resign.

Benjamin Ladner was dismissed in October 2005 after a months-long investigation in which auditors questioned spending that included at least $500,000 in travel costs, as well as the use of chauffeurs to run personal errands.

The university’s board of trustees praised Mr. Kerwin, a former provost, for his knowledge of and dedication to the 11,000-student private school in Northwest.

“The board, search committee and AU community have been seeking a tested leader with integrity who appreciates the significant role of this university in American higher education and understands its potential for future greatness,” said Gary Abramson, chairman of the board of trustees.

Mr. Kerwin, who becomes the university’s 14th president, has spent most of his career at AU. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the university in 1971 and joined the faculty in 1975 as a political science professor.

He holds a master’s in political science from the University of Rhode Island and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.

A 15-member search committee began taking nominations for the position last fall. In January, it started reviewing more than 100 applications. Candidates then met with a broad range of constituencies on campus, from faculty to students to alumni groups, university officials said.

“It’s a great feeling to know that someone who once walked our halls will now lead our school,” said Joe Vidulich, the undergraduate student body president. “He represents our values and is a friend of the students.”

The search committee recommended Mr. Kerwin to the university’s board of trustees yesterday morning. The board unanimously approved Mr. Kerwin, and his appointment will officially begin Sept. 1.

Mr. Kerwin received an extended standing ovation from an auditorium packed with staff, faculty and students when the announcement was made.

“There are a couple of times in your life that you’ll always remember, and that’s one of them,” Mr. Kerwin said later.

Mr. Abramson said Mr. Kerwin’s contract is expected to be finalized within the next few weeks.

The new president said his top priorities include designing a new strategic plan for the school and improving its marketing and public relations.

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