President of Urbana University resigns

Urbana University’s president abruptly resigned Tuesday after leading the roughly 1,800-student campus for the past two years.

The news of George Lucas’ resignation comes as the university potentially shifts to a branch campus of Franklin University. Franklin acquired the smaller campus in 2014 after Urbana University faced years of lean enrollment and serious financial struggles. As part of the deal, Urbana now functions as a division of Franklin, but retains its name. Athletic teams also retained their affiliation with the NCAA.

RELATED: Financial troubles lead to purchase of Urbana U. 

The 2014 deal was seen as critical to the community because the city of Urbana would have been faced with a vacant 128-acre campus and would have lost about 1,800 students who often volunteer in the community, work at local companies and support area businesses. Local officials have previously estimated the campus has a roughly $31 million economic impact on the region.

Lucas could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“It has been a tremendous honor to serve Urbana University students and the Urbana Community,” Lucas said in a press release. “The campus has been through a lot of change and this was not an easy decision. I believe the campus is well-poised for the kind of transformation necessary to fully restore our reputation in the hearts and minds of current and future students and their parents.”

RELATED: Urbana University lays off faculty, staff

The two entities currently undergo a separate accreditation process, said Linda Steele, vice president of enrollment and student affairs at Franklin University, a private nonprofit institution based in Columbus. If Urbana University becomes a branch campus, she said, the Champaign County University would no longer be accredited separately, and would fall under Franklin University’s process. Urbana University has been under academic probation since November 2014 when the smaller campus was facing a variety of challenges, Steele said.

If the branch campus status is approved, it would be a significant step toward ending the probation and allow Urbana University to add new academic programs and initiatives.

“This probation cloud is what really needs to be lifted in order to provide to the students, the parents and the community the confidence that we have moved out of any concerns and that our accreditation is solid,” Steele said. “By becoming this branch campus we’ll be able to ensure that to the students and the alumni.”

RELATED: Urbana University to become part of Franklin University

Franklin is expected to begin the process to make Urbana a branch campus in late June under a proposal with the Higher Learning Commission, an accreditation agency.

“That’s pretty significant and it’s the direction we took from the Higher Learning Commission following their guidance that that’s the direction we should move in,” Steele said.

Christopher Washington will take over a new role as executive vice president and provost for Urbana University. He currently serves as senior vice president and provost at Franklin University.

It is a permanent position, meaning there will not be a search for a new president for Urbana, Steele said. Washington will be responsible for leading Urbana University as its new chief executive. He is expected to preside over Urbana’s May 6 graduation ceremony, and will meet with students, faculty and staff members over the next few days.

Lucas was credited with supporting the accreditation efforts during his tenure, as well as revamping Urbana University’s enrollment management system.

RELATED: Lucas named new Urbana U. president

Franklin University appears to have made strides to stabilize the Urbana campus since 2014, said Bill Bean, Urbana’s mayor and an Urbana University alumni. He was unaware of Lucas’ decision Tuesday afternoon, but said he is still confident the campus will continue to make progress.

“I feel very confident and fortunate Franklin has come in and taken over,” Bean said. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the outcome of this whole thing is.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Community News

French officer who traded places with a hostage in supermarket attack dies
French officer who traded places with a hostage in supermarket attack dies

A police officer who offered to trade places with a hostage during a standoff at a supermarket in southern France died Saturday morning, CNN reported. Lt.-Col. Arnaud Beltrame, 45, was shot by 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim as he entered the Super U market in Trèbes on Friday. Beltrame "fell as a hero" and showed "exceptional...
Mississippi College students sleep outside to raise awareness about homeless
Mississippi College students sleep outside to raise awareness about homeless

Some college students from Mississippi wanted to raise awareness about homeless people, so they spent a recent night outside, sleeping in cardboard boxes, WAPT reported. “People don’t realize how many homeless people there are and exactly what they go through on a daily basis,” Mississippi College student Jessica Flemmings...
Congress approves $450,000 for Wright brothers factory buildings 
Congress approves $450,000 for Wright brothers factory buildings 

The National Park Service will have $450,000 to buy two historic buildings at the former Wright Co. airplane factory site in West Dayton, Ohio, under a $1.3 trillion federal omnibus spending bill President Donald Trump signed Friday. But the years-long quest to buy buildings 1 and 2, the first factory in the world to produce airplanes, is anything...
FBI identifies man who crashed gate at Travis Air Force Base in California
FBI identifies man who crashed gate at Travis Air Force Base in California

The FBI identified a man who was killed in a fiery crash after his vehicle “gained unauthorized access” onto Travis Air Force Base in northern California, CNN reported Friday. Hafiz Kazi, 51, was originally from India and had lived in the United States since 1993. He was a legal resident, FBI Special Agent Sean Ragan said at a news...
Florida woman attacks husband for forgetting anniversary, deputies say
Florida woman attacks husband for forgetting anniversary, deputies say

A Florida woman was not very happy when her husband forgot their wedding anniversary, and her anger landed her in jail, deputies said. Carol Stone, 35, of Zephyrhills, was arrested by Pasco County deputies Wednesday on charges of domestic battery, a misdemeanor, WTVT reported. According to her husband, Stone became angry when he admitted he had...
More Stories