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Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert speaks during the city of Huntington’s sesquicentennial time capsule closing ceremony on Oct. 22, at the Mountain Health Arena Plaza in downtown Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Current Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert announced at the university’s Board of Governors meeting Thursday that he will step down from the role sooner than expected.

Gilbert said in April that he would not seek an extension of his contract, which expires in July 2022. But he said Thursday he has reached an agreement to terminate his presidency Dec. 31 and, instead, fill another role at the university to ensure a smooth transition to the presidency of Brad Smith, who was named to the position later in the same meeting. Gilbert will stay in the new role through July.

Gilbert said he approves of Smith as the president-elect.

“This is a bittersweet moment for me. When I made the decision to step away from the presidency, I knew it would be difficult,” he said. “I love Marshall University. I love the students. I love the faculty. I love the staff. I want nothing but the best for Marshall.”

Smith said no one would be able to fill Gilbert’s shoes but that it is a privilege to walk in his path and build on the foundation he’s built.

Before announcing his planned December departure, Gilbert listed for the board his accomplishments during his presidency. They ranged from diversifying the campus, including the student body and faculty, to bringing in new development and expanding research opportunities.

He also oversaw the addition of high-demand programs, such as biomedical engineering, aviation, physician assistant and specialty agriculture, as well as early assurance programs in the health professions.

Board of Governors Chairman Patrick Farrell thanked the Marshall and Huntington communities and the board for their input in the presidential selection, saying the groups made the search committee’s decision an easy one.

“We would like to thank Dr. Gilbert for all the work he’s done,” he said. “And he still has important work to finish out as our president through the end of the year and with the transition.”

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.

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