Chairman of Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees resigns from post, board
Peter Kiernan says his leaked email was “confusing at a critical moment for the University”
Peter Kiernan, the chairman of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, resigned from his post today amid public outcry over a leaked email in which he admitted advance knowledge of plans to dismiss University President Teresa A. Sullivan.
In the email, which he sent Sunday evening to the other Darden trustees, Kiernan wrote that "two important Virginia alums" had contacted him several weeks ago about working with University Rector Helen Dragas on a "project" to oust Sullivan.
"It pained me to keep this information from you and from Bob [Bruner], but I was sworn top [sic] keep the process confidential," Kiernan wrote in the email.
Darden School Dean Bob Bruner read a message of resignation from Kiernan aloud to a conference room filled with members of the Darden community, including students, faculty and staff. In the message Kiernan apologized for his leaked email, which he said was "confusing at a critical moment for the University" and also "unfairly associated the Darden School" with Sullivan's departure.
Bruner told the audience he personally had no prior knowledge of the Board's request that Sullivan step down, and he said the Darden School had no involvement apart from Kiernan's. Bruner did point out four members of the Board of Visitors hold Darden degrees but said they were among a minority.
"I don't think you can say it was a small number of Darden alums who made the decision because that ignores the other 75 percent of the Board of Visitors," Bruner said.
Members of the Darden community expressed confusion about the lack of public knowledge surrounding Sullivan's dismissal as well as the potential impact on the Darden School's reputation, given mounting public speculation about the involvement of Darden alumni in Sullivan's ousting. The business school weathered bad press after Kiernan's email leaked, with The Hook suggesting in a June 13 article that Sullivan's resignation was a Darden-orchestrated "coup."
"In the absence of explanations, that's a really easy story to tell," Assoc. Darden Prof. Robert Carraway said.
John Simon, the University's executive vice president and provost, also spoke at today's meeting. Simon said he was undergoing a "professional grieving process" for Sullivan but believed the University community must reestablish trust in itself and find a way to move forward.
"It's an outstanding teaching institution; I'd hate to see that destroyed by this," Simon said. "What this institution is like two, five years from now is going to be defined by us and how we take the institution forward"