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University dean resigns in degree scandal

The dean of West Virginia University's College of Business and Economics is resigning in the wake of the scandal over a degree awarded to the governor's daughter.
Governor's Daughter
West Virginia University provost Gerald Lang, left, and WVU College of Business and Economics Dean Stephen Sears answer questions from the media about the degree scandal on Wednesday. The university said Sunday that Lang was resigning, and on Monday added Sears to that list.Dale Sparks / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The dean of West Virginia University's College of Business and Economics is resigning in the wake of the scandal over a master's degree awarded to the governor's daughter, the school announced Monday.

R. Stephen Sears is the second high-ranking academic officer to leave in the case, following Sunday's announcement that Provost Gerald Lang is resigning.

An investigating panel concluded last week that the two men were among several administrators who acted inappropriately and applied "severely flawed" judgment in awarding Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch a degree the panel said she did not earn.

Bresch, daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin, works for one of the university's key donors, Milan Puskar, and is a longtime friend of WVU President Mike Garrison.

The panel that studied her executive master's of business administration degree, which was retroactively awarded last fall after records discrepancies were discovered, concluded the administration lacked an academic foundation for deciding she had earned the degree in 1998.

Those administrators relied too heavily on verbal assertions and caved in to political pressure, whether real or perceived, the panel said.

Sears, dean since 2005, did not immediately issue a personal statement about his decision, and the administration did not immediately comment on it.

Lang apologized during the weekend.

"I am very sorry that my one action in ratifying a dean's decision in a single situation has had a negative impact on the institution," Lang wrote.

Some professors have said they'll bring a motion before the Faculty Senate on May 12, calling for a vote of no confidence in Garrison.

Garrison, a politically connected attorney who worked for former Gov. Bob Wise, was appointed to his position in April 2007 over the objections of some faculty.

Lang has been the university's top academic officer for 13 years. For 19 years before that, he was a dean, assistant dean and faculty member.

Sears was previously senior executive associate dean of Rawls College of Business Administration at Texas Tech University, where he taught finance. He has also worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Manchin said through his spokeswoman, Lara Ramsburg, that Lang's departure is a matter for WVU to handle. Bresch has declined to comment on the resignations.