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Volume 4, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Stutts steps down, DeFranco steps in

By Ken Fountain
Breaking News Staff

In a surprise to many faculty and staff members, Alan Stutts, dean of the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, announced last week he is resigning from his position in order to accept the presidency of what is described as a "for-profit higher education institution." At press time, the name of the institution had not been announced.

Associate Dean Agnes DeFranco has been named interim dean until Stutts' replacement is chosen sometime next year.

Stutts spoke briefly about his decision to a gathering of HRM faculty and staff Dec. 12. The group was then addressed by UH Provost/Associate President for Academic Affairs Edward Sheridan, who outlined the process by which the new dean will be chosen.

In his remarks, Stutts said he had "a good feeling" about the status of the college, and that he felt it was time for him to move on. He was named the college's dean in April 1993 after spending 10 years as a professor and associate dean of the College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Ken Fountain/Breaking News

UH Provost Edward Sheridan (right) discusses the process by which a successor will be chosen for outgoing Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management Dean Alan Stutts (left), who announced his resignation Wednesday.

Sheridan told the group, "this is something I did not want to happen." He said Stutts told him of his decision only a week before, and that he prevailed upon Stutts to change his mind.

"I had no idea Alan was going to make this move. It was a decision he made very privately. He said he'd given it a lot of thought. I found that it wasn't possible to negotiate (with Stutts)," Sheridan said. 

"If I felt there had been room for negotiation, I would have. I did everything I could to communicate to him that this was not a good move," he said.

"I am very pleased with this college," Sheridan said, noting that under Stutts' tenure, the college had greatly expanded its international stature through the creation of hospitality industry education programs in countries such as Mexico, China, Thailand and Turkey. He also lauded the college's distance education program, which he said was a model for its kind.

Sheridan said he and Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs David Bell would soon appoint a committee of six or seven members to begin a national search for Stutts' successor. The committee will eventually choose around four candidates who will be flown into Houston for meetings with the faculty. Sheridan said the final selection should be made in time for the new dean to take over before the Fall 2002 semester.

DeFranco has elected not to be considered for the position in order to send the message to potential candidates that "this really is an open search," Sheridan said.

Stutts' tenure has not been without controversy. The college has been the subject of two investigations, completed in 1997 and 2001, by the UH Internal Audit Division for allegations of financial improprieties by Stutts and other HRM administrators. Both investigations found that there had been violations of UH policies, but cleared Stutts of any criminal wrongdoing.

Stephen Barth, an associate professor at the college, filed a lawsuit against the University in Harris County civil court in July alleging Stutts had retaliated against him for making the allegations to the UH administration that led to the 2001 IA investigation. He further claims Sheridan and other UH administrators allowed the retaliation to continue, in violation of the Texas Whistleblowers Act. The lawsuit is still pending.

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