COLUMBUS — A "major rift" had developed between the chairman of the Ohio State University board of trustees, who resigned Friday, and President Michael V. Drake, said a university source with knowledge of the relationship.
Chairman Michael J. Gasser submitted his resignation in an email sent to Drake and the rest of the board Friday morning, effective immediately.
“The chairman has been upset with the president’s performance and actions,” the source told the Columbus Dispatch on condition of anonymity, but would not discuss specifics of Gasser’s concerns.
Gasser made no reference to Drake in his resignation letter, in which he stated he could no longer commit the time needed as a trustee, and cited "personal and private issues."
Gasser added that "it has been an honor to serve as a trustee" and asked the president and the board to respect his privacy and his decision.
An Ohio State trustee since 2012, Gasser had been board chairman since June of last year. His term was not to expire until May 2021.
Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey said in an emailed statement that senior vice chair Tim Smucker will preside over the next board meeting, scheduled for next week.
"Mr. Gasser's service to Ohio State is deeply appreciated," Davey wrote. "He has been an extraordinarily valuable chair and member of the board, and we wish him the very best."
Gasser, who is executive chairman of the board of Greif Inc., a Delaware-based industrial packaging firm, did not return messages from the Dispatch on Friday.
The Ohio State board praised Drake in his most recent performance evaluation in November, when they awarded the president a 2.5% raise and the maximum bonus allowed under his contract.
Gasser, as chairman, signed the president's performance review along with Hiroyuki Fujita, chairman of the board's compensation committee, and they wrote of the board's support of Drake.
“You have demonstrated your ability to devote significant attention to the execution of our strategic plan while still managing the diverse operations of our university,” Gasser and Fujita wrote in Drake’s review. “As a board, we want to confirm our continued support and alignment with your guidance and achievement of our strategic goals.”
Gasser is the second board member to resign in the past year. Jeffrey Wadsworth resigned in August after saying he disagreed with the board’s decision to suspend head football coach Urban Meyer for three games. Wadsworth had advocated for a harsher punishment.
The board chairman's resignation bookends a week of grim news out of Ohio State. A week ago, the university released a report conducted by Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie finding that deceased Ohio State physician Richard Strauss sexually abused at least 177 students and that university employees knew of the abuse but repeatedly failed to act.
On Thursday, former Ohio State Diving Club coach William A. Bohonyi Jr., 33, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery for engaging in sexual conduct in 2014 with a then-16-year-old girl who was a member of the club. He could be sentenced to 10 years in prison and must register as a sex offender every three months the rest of his life.