Mark Rosenberg’s sudden resignation from the Florida International University presidency on Friday shocked the community, largely because the veteran administrator had given no distinct public indications in recent interviews that he had retirement on his mind.
On the contrary, in a video interview conducted by the Miami Herald on Dec. 14, Rosenberg answers the direct question, “Are you retiring any time soon?” with the response, “No, nothing soon. But ...”
When then pressed as to whether his retirement could come in the next three or four years, Rosenberg said, “Well I can’t say that. I won’t commit to that.”
The university’s fifth president was then asked what his “most important expectation is, at some point when you retire?”
Rosenberg responded that he wants FIU to be considered “the most trusted public institution in the United States. And I want an institution that people know is the go-to place to get things done where students’ success comes No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 as a priority.”
Rosenberg’s other video
In another video, also produced by the Herald on Dec. 14, Rosenberg was ebullient and optimistic about FIU’s current standing and bullish about the public university’s future.
“We have significantly expanded the research enterprise. We have significantly expanded the number of eligible students and the graduation rates and that has helped us to have the resources to do what we wanted to do. My philosophy on that is scale gives you leverage,” he said at the top of the video.
Rosenberg doesn’t utter the words “retire” or “resign.” He gives no clear indication that he was poised to hand over the presidency to another leader who could take FIU into the stratosphere he was envisioning in its near future.
Instead, the president said FIU had just graduated 6,000 students in December and that the university would would see 17,000 more students earn their degrees in 2022.
“This university is really unstoppable,” Rosenberg said in the clip. “This university is very optimistic about the future. This university is finding ways to make things happen with the talent that it has and this university is destined to be a top public university — Top 50 — and then further moving up. That’s important because our community deserves a world class university [and this] is a world class community.”
Counter those statements, and the other denial of a pending retirement in the near future, with the email Rosenberg issued to the university community late Friday afternoon in the 13th year of his presidency.
Dear members of the university community,
The following letter was shared with FIU Board of Trustees Chair Dean C. Colson today. pic.twitter.com/WXsj8iBwtg
— FIU (@FIU) January 21, 2022
“It is with a sense of accomplishment and sadness that I share with you that I will be resigning as president of FIU effective this Friday, January 21, 2022. “I am stepping back so that I may give full attention to recurring personal health issues and to the deteriorating health of my wife, Rosalie.”
Did Rosenberg hint in Herald interview?
Rosenberg suggested there would be an end date to his tenure. But it didn’t seem that it would happen just a little over a month later.
“Ultimately I’m an academic, and I’ve got still three, maybe four, books left to write,” Rosenberg told the Herald on Dec. 14. “My attitude is to go raging into that good night, whatever that looks like. At some point I’ll step down, and we’ll get a new president, and I would expect them to pick up where I left off.”
Rosenberg, 72, started his career at FIU in America’s Bicentennial year, 1976, as an assistant political science professor, four years after FIU was founded. He did not respond to requests for comment following his resignation.
On Friday, FIU said Kenneth Jessell, 66, its chief financial officer and senior vice president of finance and administration, will serve as interim president while FIU searches for a permanent successor.
Interim FIU President Kenneth A. Jessell shared this video message with the university community today. pic.twitter.com/rduwPGzW4e
— FIU (@FIU) January 22, 2022
Miami Herald staff writer Jimena Tavel contributed to this report.