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!