Scott Young, News Editor
The Jacksonville State University Board of Trustees voted earlier today, October 22, to terminate the employment of John M. Beehler as the president of Jacksonville State University. No reason was provided as to why Beehler’s employment was terminated.
The president’s 2015 employment agreement requires the Board of Trustees to provide Beehler with a 30-day notice of his termination. His termination is to take effect on November 21, 2019.
All of the trustees voted to approve the termination, except for Gale Main and Clarence Daugette, who abstained.
“I’ve never felt better, more optimistic and more encouraged about the future of this school,” said Randall Jones, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, after the vote to terminate Beehler passed. “What we’ve got for the future is just fantastic.”
The termination comes one month after the Board of Trustees voted to authorize Beehler to take a 90-day leave of absence for “family medical reasons”, and shortly after a lawsuit was filed alleging JSU covered up a sexual assault in 2017.
Beehler’s contract states that being discharged by the Board of Trustees entitles him to receive his salary for a full year after the date of removal.
The JSU chief external affairs officer Don Killingsworth will serve as acting president, effective immediately.
“I am humbled by the decision of the board and honored to serve the institution in this role,” said Killingsworth. “We have great people in place, and we are going to carry on with the strategic plan and continue day to day operations.”
The Board of Trustees have not yet announced plans to permanently fill the position. According to a statement from the university, the “next steps” are likely to be discussed at the January meeting of the Board of Trustees.
Beehler has served as the 12th president of Jacksonville State University since July 1, 2015, succeeding Bill Meehan, and previously served as the dean of the School of Business at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Beehler is a certified public accountant, and earned his Masters in finance and Ph.D. in accounting and taxation from Indiana University.
After the Board of Trustees approved Beehler’s leave of absence, sent an email to the student body.
“I am grateful to the Board for allowing me to use my sick leave during this time so that I may provide care and support to loved ones,” said Beehler in his email to students.
Beehler’s tenure as president aligned with the March 19, 2018 tornado that struck the university and the city of Jacksonville, severely damaging 23 buildings, impacting 50 others and causing roughly $100 million in damage.
Additionally, Beehler’s presidency has been the center of controversy on a number of occasions, including when the university signed Landon Rice to the JSU football team. Rice was a football player at Auburn University, who was found to be “responsible” for an alleged sexual assault incident in 2016 by a Title IX investigation at Auburn.
Updated: 10/24/2019, 12:44 p.m. CST
Beehler released a statement on Thursday, October 24, two days after being terminated to address the decision made by the Board of Trustees.
“Four years ago, I was blessed with the extraordinary opportunity of serving as the President of Jacksonville State University,” said Beehler. “I took the helm of JSU knowing that l had an opportunity to have a major impact by rallying JSU’s faculty, staff, students and alumni to improve certain elements of the University and position JSU for a very bright future.”
Later in the release, he touted his accomplishments as president of Jacksonvlle State University, citing the recovery from the March 2018 tornadoes, opening the Recreation and Fitness Center and record student enrollment.
“Clearly, JSU has been moving with enormous momentum in a very positive direction overthe past four years,” said Beehler. “I am extraordinarily proud of JSU and how far we have come together.”