Fired Arcadia University President Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III said he was cut off from the university’s email system and told by board leadership that they “object” to his returning to campus even to say goodbye.
His comments were included in an email addressed to “friends and colleagues” at Arcadia sent Tuesday evening and obtained by The Inquirer.
“I was told by one knowledgeable trustee that the reason was that they feared I would have upset the students too much,” Oxholm wrote.
Oxholm was terminated by the board of trustees on March 8 after only 20 months on the job. Three trustees delivered the news to him after meeting in private for more than seven hours, he said. They declined to explain the reasons, he said. He did not name the trustees.
Oxholm, a former Drexel University administrator, could not be reached immediately for comment.
University leadership has declined to release the reasons for Oxholm’s termination, calling it a confidential matter. The secrecy has roiled some members of the Arcadia community who have been asking for answers.
In the email, Oxholm said he was stunned by the board’s decision last month to force him out and still doesn’t know “exactly what happened. I may never be certain. But the bottom line is that, despite all that we had accomplished together over my 20 months as President, I had lost the confidence of a majority of Board members.”
During his tenure, he said he was never given the opportunity to discuss with board members any concerns they may have had about his performance at the university, which enrolls about 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
“I know that our overnight withdrawal from campus might have looked as if I were guilty of something, but I want you to know that wasn’t the case,” he wrote.
He said he realized he had an ambitious agenda and acknowledged: “While I was very pleased and proud of what we have achieved together and the new course that we were on, perhaps I moved too fast on too many fronts. If that was my fault, I did it because of my passion for the students, faculty, staff and community, and with the confidence that, together, we could not just face successfully the threats confronting private non-profit higher education, but thrive in an environment that demanded the excellence we had, but had poorly communicated and under-leveraged.”
Oxholm said he and his wife, Kim, left the president’s house the morning after he was let go and went to a home they own in the Poconos. It was there he discovered that he was cut off from the Arcadia email system, “losing not only our ability to communicate but also our contacts and calendar.”
They returned to the university’s 55-acre main campus in Glenside a week later when he was told by the board chair, Margaret Wright Steele, a 1980 graduate of Arcadia, that trustees objected to his returning to campus to say goodbye, he wrote.
He called the loss of the job and his inability to be part of Arcadia’s future “one of the greatest sadnesses of my life.”
“Since I have been banned from campus, I won’t be able to come thank any of you personally for all you did to make my time there so personally exciting and fulfilling,” he wrote.
Oxholm, a lawyer and formerly a key aide to the late Drexel president Constantine Papadakis, was hired by Arcadia in May 2011 and took the helm that summer. Previously, he had been the senior vice president and dean of Drexel's Center for Graduate Studies in California.
Oxholm said he and his wife have rented a small apartment in Philadelphia where they will be moving in May.
“Again, it is with the greatest of sadness that I say goodbye to Arcadia – a community that I loved,” he wrote. “I gave the institution, and everyone connected with it, my very best each and every day. I am truly sorry that was not good enough.”