Ball State University President retires. Is this anything beyond a normal retirement?

Jo Ann Gora, president of Ball State University (BSU) in Muncie, Indiana, has just announced that she will retire in June. As The Muncie Star Press reports:

Gora had informed the BSU Board of Trustees on Friday of her plans to retire.

“This year will be my 10th as president at Ball State but my 40th in higher education,” Gora said in the release. “It has been a rewarding and fulfilling career, specially these years in Indiana.”

Hollis Hughes, president of the board of trustees, said Gora “has taken Ball State to new levels of excellence and recognition during her presidency.”

“There is no good time to say goodbye to such a leader, but the university is well positioned to continue to press forward in the course she helped us set.”

You’ll remember Gora for her participation in the BSU intelligent-design fracas, when Professor Eric Hedin was found to be teaching ID and proselytizing Christianity in a science class. After an investigation (loudly protested by the Discovery Institute), Hedin was forced to abandon that class and, in an unequivocal and admirable statement, Gora reaffirmed BSU’s opposition to teaching ID, which she correctly characterized as a religiously-based theory, in science classes.

What surprised me was how much Gora was making:

Last May, The Star Press reported that Gora was the fifth-highest paid president nationally among public college presidents in 2011-12, with total compensation of $984,647, including deferred pay and retirement benefits.She received her most recent raise a month ago, when the board of trustees approved a 3.5 percent pay hike, raising Gora’s base salary from $431,244 to $446,338.

Well, given that Gora wrote such a fantastic letter about intelligent design, I won’t carp about her salary. What worries me more is whether this is a real retirement, or whether Gora was forced out of her job by pressure from creationists and fundamentalists in Indiana—pressure channeled through the University’s Board of Trustees or donors.

One reader suggested darkly that the biggest donor to BSU: the Lilly Endowment Fund (LEF) might have exerted pressure. This fund is by far the largest donor to BSU, and its money comes largely from stock in the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.  As you can see from the list of “million dollar donors” to BSU, the LEF has donated more than 87 million dollars over to BSU over the years, more than four times more the largesse of the next largest donor.  The LEF, as described by Wikipedia, “is unique in that it is the largest private foundation in the United States that funds almost exclusively in its home city and state and one of few major foundations to fund religion.” That article lists a bunch of their religious initiatives, which the LEF also describes here.

Lilly also heavily funds the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank that once employed Bruce Chapman, now president of the intelligent-design organization The Discovery Institute. Another senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, John Wohlstetter, was or is a trustee of the Hudson Institute.  The Hudson Institute has co-sponsored events with the Discovery Institute, including at least one with ID flak Stephen Meyer as a speaker. In fact, as Wikia reports (and I can’t verify this elsewhere), the connections are even closer: “The Discovery Institute was founded in 1990 by Bruce Chapman, George Gilder, and Stephen C. Meyer as a non-profit educational foundation and think tank based upon the Christian apologetics of C.S. Lewis. It was founded as a branch of the Hudson Institute, an Indianapolis-based, conservative think tank. (Emphasis is mine.)

This all may be an airy-fairy conspiracy scenario,  but one can at least envision that Lilly, as Ball State’s largest donor, might weigh in if BSU starts doing stuff that the Discovery Institute doesn’t like. And that may including coming down on intelligent design.  But I hope Gora simply retired of her own initiative. One never knows what’s behind these movements of administrators at large universities.

At any rate, we’ll see if Gora’s replacement reaffirms the school’s opposition to teaching religion disguised as science.  In the meantime, Ceiling Cat speed, Dr. Gora!

jag2

Jo Ann M. Gora

49 Comments

  1. NewEnglandBob
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lilly Gorilla threw its weight around.

    • gbjames
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:53 am | Permalink

      +1

  2. foggybottom
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    You might want to correct the sentence with the grammatical error in it.

    “Well, for a letter like the one wrote about ID, I won’t carp about that.”

    I’m not quite clear about what it is trying to communicate, but suspect that there was a keyboard glitch involved somewhere.

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers

    • Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      Yeah, I wrote that at 6:30 a.m. It’s fixed now, thanks.

    • foggybottom
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Now I get it. Thanks for the update.

  3. ladyatheist
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    Her response to the DI’s letter last month was spot-on, too. I hope the trustees realize that the university’s reputation was at risk through that episode.

  4. Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    There’s a lot more about other pious bedfellows, trust funds, endowments, grants, and Lilly-White Jebus:

    http://www.crossroad.to/Quotes/spirituality/templeton.htm

  5. Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    The machinations of big donors can result in events of this sort. If there was any such pressure, it will probably leak out pretty soon. It will be interesting to see who replaces her.

  6. Pete Moulton
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Whatever the circumstances surrounding President Gora’s departure, you can bet that the IDiots will be high-fiving each other over their ‘success’ in driving a perceived enemy of ‘teaching the controversy’ out of office.

    • Matt G
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

      Perhaps the choice of her successor will provide some insight, especially if he/she walks Gora’s statement on ID back.

  7. ladyatheist
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Perhaps this NYT article was the source of the Wiki quote about Hudson, or the reverse? http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/21/national/21evolve.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  8. Alex
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I won’t carp about her salary either, I just find it amusing that she makes more than 1 1/2 times as much as the president of my country, you know, that germany place… :D

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      She makes more than a lot of corporate executives as well at least at the VP level. I didn’t realize universities paid so well. I’m impressed and confused at the same time.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:17 am | Permalink

        I suspect that for corporations with similar numbers of employees, her salary is low for people with comparable levels of responsibility. (Not that she isn’t highly compensated.) Here is a site that gives base salary levels for the state of Texas – many other states have similar sites.

      • Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

        I guess universities are businesses these days…

        /@

    • Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      The salaries of university presidents, like those of coaches, is justified largely by the amount of money each generates from donors (foundations, alumni, etc). So I would bet Gora’s retirement is related to the perception among the trustees that she may have offended the university’s biggest donor. The offense may not even be real, but the trustees are almost certainly paranoid about courting this donor.

      The link to Lilly may also explain the Jesus-friendly professors.

      • Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Well, I would have lost my bet–see Comment 11.

  9. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    Her salary is pretty high. In most public universities, that kind of number applies to coaches and maybe medical or law school administrators.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

      …and for head coaches, that’s definitely low.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    Even if the interests of donors are not directly involved in Gora’s retirement, it certainly is something to consider in general. I don’t know about others, but donors with an agenda make me nervous and I don’t know if there really is a way to guard against wealthy interest groups influencing policies.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Stanford U tries to be careful about preventing wealthy donors from influencing the teaching agenda, but this involves extensive ongoing monitoring to such a degree that it makes one suspect not all universities are as good at it.

  11. Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Pres. Gora made some enemies over that huge controversy. She was very honest and courageous. One does have to wonder why she’s leaving so soon after this recent debate, after all she’s only 67, and a very young-looking 67 at that. I hope she has bigger and better plans in store, as she’s a true asset to the call for critical thinking and intellectual honesty. I look forward to hearing more from her.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      …and a very young-looking 67 at that

      We have pictures of distinguished professors and university administrators hanging on the walls of the administrative offices all over campus. They are all “young-looking” too. 😄

      • Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        I saw a more recent photo of her. Still a youthful 67!

    • Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      In my biz (music), recitalists regularly use headshots from 20+ years ago.

      • ladyatheist
        Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        She really is that young-looking!

  12. Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    My brother-in-law shared this web site with me sometime ago, back when BSU first starting appearing here as a subject for discussion. I’ve stayed because I’ve enjoyed reading about the wide range of topics here. I am a faculty member at Ball State, and I am a firm believer in respectful dialogue and grounded in intellectual rigor. I am de-lurking to deflect needless speculation why Gora is retiring. President Gora enjoys the unquestioned support of the Board of Trustees, as evidenced by her history of salary raises and bonuses. Additionally, the faculty have overwhelmingly supported her leadership concerning the teaching of science at a public university, though they may rightly grumble about other issues, such as their own salaries. In fact, most faculty were surprised by this announcement not because of anything political but because it is a clear signal to many of us that a family issue compels her to retire sooner than she wanted. Her contract was good up through 2017. President Goga has be a good president for BSU, and while she’s been a lightening rod for some issues, she has made mostly very good, sometimes very brave, decisions. She came down on the right side of science, as readers here know, and I believe her legacy will improve with age.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      Thank you for sharing your insights on this.

    • Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      I am glad to hear that. Always good to have real data!

    • ladyatheist
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      That’s a relief! During the Ball State kerfuffle (or imbroglio, as the Sensuous Curmudgeon calls it), the science faculty were eerily silent. I worried that either 1) they were also creationists or 2) they were afraid to speak out.

      I hope they feel confident now that true science will be taught by their colleagues.

    • Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      I’m glad you de-lurked to weigh in. Thanks!

  13. Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    My brother-in-law shared this web site with me sometime ago, back when BSU first starting appearing here as a subject for discussion. I’ve stayed because I’ve enjoyed reading about the wide range of topics here. I am a faculty member at Ball State, and I am a firm believer in respectful dialogue and grounded in intellectual rigor. I am de-lurking to deflect needless speculation why Gora is retiring. President Gora enjoys the unquestioned support of the Board of Trustees, as evidenced by her history of salary raises and bonuses. Additionally, the faculty have overwhelmingly supported her leadership concerning the teaching of science at a public university, though they may rightly grumble about other issues, such as their own salaries. In fact, most faculty were surprised by this announcement not because of anything political but because it is a clear signal to many of us that a family issue compels her to retire sooner than she wanted. Her contract was good up through 2017. President Goga has be a good president for BSU, and while she’s been a lightening rod for some issues, she has made mostly very good, sometimes very brave, decisions. She came down on the right side of science, as readers here know, and I believe her legacy will improve with age.

  14. John
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    I live in Indianapolis, the headquarters of Eli Lilly. Despite its apparent support for certain religious and conservative causes, Lilly has actually been pretty progressive on science and social issues. Indiana has been trying to position itself as a hub for bio-medical companies, such that Lilly and others have been fighting to prevent Indiana’s neocon legislature from doing stupid things that would dissuade scientists from relocating here. At the present time, Lilly is actually spearheading the opposition to a proposed amendment to the Indiana constitution that would ban gay marriage. I could be misremembering, but I believe Lilly had also expressed its disapproval of a proposed Indiana law a few years ago that would have promoted the teaching of creationism in Indiana classrooms.

    • tomh
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      John wrote:

      I live in Indianapolis, the headquarters of Eli Lilly. Despite its apparent support for certain religious and conservative causes, Lilly has actually been pretty progressive on science and social issues.

      The policies of Eli Lilly have nothing to do with the policies of the Lilly Foundation, since their only connection is stock that the Foundation holds in the company. The intertwining of the Lilly Foundation and the Discovery Institute is self-evident, as is their status as the largest donor to Ball St. Whether this has anything to do with the sympathy for, and hiring of, creationists at Ball St is an open question.

      • Jeff D
        Posted October 29, 2013 at 12:22 am | Permalink

        I’ve lived in Indiana for the past 19.5 years after 8.5 years in New York City. I work in Indianapolis and I am active in philanthropic and charitable planning. I have sat on the boards of charitable organizations, including two charities that have applied for Lilly Endowment grants. I still sit on the board of trustees of a smaller (but still quite active and successful), Indianapolis-based private family foundation (which FWIW does not make grants to religious organizations or projects).

        The Lilly Endowment does continue to make grants to religious organizations and projects, but I’d characterize most of them as fairly “white-bread,” middle-of-the-road projects. Despite the “connections” between the Lilly Foundation, the Hudson Institute, and the Discovery Institute, I have personally seen no evidence that an anti-life science or religious bias affects the grant-making of the Lilly Foundation. If it’s happening, it’s happening well under the figurative radar, and neither the chief officers of the Endowment nor other prominent charitable fundraisers are talking about it.

  15. Greg Esres
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    If she were being forced out, I wouldn’t imagine she would go out so quietly. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    The history of Discovery as related by Wikipedia and rightwing.wikia are about the same but only the latter states that from the start & square one Discovery was “based upon the Christian apologetics of C.S. Lewis”.

    According to both Wikipedia and the Seattle Weekly News, they started in 1990 as a conservative !*political*! think tank floundering for a while because they lacked a defining issue until they hit on ID.
    (Since the link to the Seattle paper in Wikipedia’s article on DI is broken, I give the correct one here

    http://www.seattleweekly.com/2006-02-01/news/discovery-s-creation/)

    (Ironically, one of their founders was originally a liberal Republican who thought Goldwater too anti-intellectual.)

    Discovery has however sponsored a “C. S. Lewis & Public Life” program since 2000 which explains their recent kerfuffles with BioLogos over whether or not Lewis supported evolutionary thinking or not. (On the face of it, he did.)

    • Leigh Jackson
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      No questions about his support for miracles.

  17. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    sub

  18. lisa parker
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Who ever invented this whole ‘intelligent design’ thing was obviously NOT a ‘woman of a certain age.” I cannot see a lot of intelligence working here. This is definitely not how I would have designed me.

    • Notagod
      Posted October 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      That’s the way it seems to me as well. If the outcome was the result of natural evolution processes it is remarkably good. There are some species that might meet most of the criteria of good design but, humans aren’t one of those species. If a designer was involved It would necessarily be an idiot, an asshole, or both.

      • Posted October 29, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink

        While we certainly have our evolution-induced design flaws, I wouldn’t write us off quite in the way you’re describing. Humans are the ultimate multidisciplinary athletes. For starters, I don’t think any other species can compete with us at long-distance running. We’re not too shabby at sprinting, though we’re obviously outclassed there by many. No other animal can even come close to our throwing abilities. We’re pretty decent jumpers. We’re the only true cliff climbers; mountain goats are impressive, but they can’t do vertical, let alone more than vertical or chimney pipes or the like. We’re pretty good in the trees, too, though not the best. And not only can we swim, we can dive; I don’t think any other land animal can dive the way we do.

        But, yeah. All sorts of stupidly obvious things — the usual suspects of backs and prostates and knees and arthritis and all the rest. If “intelligently” designed, the designer belongs in tort court.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • lisa parker
          Posted October 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          I’ll grant you that humans do have some excellent abilities (when they decide to use them.) But especially our digestive track and reproductive systems could really use some redesigning. And I’m still pondering if the real difference between humans and animals, especially mammals, is our technology.

          • Posted October 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            We’ve got lots to separate us from other mammals. Language is a really, really big one; knowledge doesn’t die with the individual who acquires it. We also seem to have all the other species beat when it comes to fine motor skills, which lets us manipulate our environment in ways not even imaginable to other species. And our cognitive skills really are vastly superior to any other found on Earth, even if many humans underestimate what some are capable of.

            Put it all together…and you’ve got a species that’s leaps and bounds ahead of any other.

            …for certain definitions of, “ahead,” of course. We certainly seem to be more capable of collapsing the ecosystem than anything since cyanobacteria….

            Cheers,

            b&

  19. Jim Thomerson
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I became an Emeritus Professor at age 62, after 32 years of service, including three years as department chair. So Her retirement sounds reasonable to me.

  20. Diane G.
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    sub

  21. Mark Joseph
    Posted October 28, 2013 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, with the nice round numbers she mentioned, 10 and 40, the better angel of my nature wants to think that she is retiring because she wants to.

    But, even if this is not the case, her letter concerning “Intelligent Design” will remain as a truly amazing legacy, comparable to Judge Jones’ decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover.

    Many people never get a chance to do anything that will be remembered long after they leave the scene; I think both Gora and Jones did.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted October 29, 2013 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      I agree that it was a remarkably cogent and unambiguous letter.


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