by Max Brantley
Lu Hardin, the former Arkansas senator and head of the University of Central Arkansas, has resigned as president of Palm Beach Atlantic University. Said a college news release:
Robert Simpson, chairman of the board of trustees of Palm Beach Atlantic University, announced today that he has accepted the resignation of President Lu Hardin effective immediately.
“The board of trustees is grateful to President Hardin for the progress that the University has made through his leadership,” Simpson said. “Palm Beach Atlantic is poised for continued growth in enrollment and access to its academic programs.”
The University is in a very positive state, Simpson said, having advanced recently in many ways. The University expanded the physical plant with the dedication of the Lassiter Rotunda and the acquisition of the Fern Street Theatre. The Rinker Athletic Campus is moving forward at last. Awareness of the University grew through a media campaign that includes television and outdoor advertising. This heightened awareness has resulted in growing undergraduate enrollment, which totaled 3,659 last fall. The appointment of Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter as head baseball coach has increased visibility of the athletic program.
Simpson added that the board will follow the proper procedures to appoint an interim president and name a search committee comprised of trustees, faculty and staff to begin the comprehensive process of selecting the University’s eighth president.
Hardin moved to the Florida job in June 2009 after a UCA tenure that blew up in controversy over bonuses paid Hardin (once on the strength of a note over the names of three college officials that turned out to have been written by Hardin himself.) Financial transactions at UCA during the Hardin era have been the focus of a continuing federal investigation and there's no immediate word if Hardin's resignation has any relationship to that.
I haven't been able to reach Hardin so far.
It's known that a former Hardin aide, Barbara Anderson, and Rush Harding, a member of the UCA Board of Trustees testified before a federal Grand Jury about UCA matters. An ad executive, Ben Combs, also talked with the U.S. attorney's staff about his UCA business. A state audit found that public and private money was used to pay the football coach in excess of the state salary cap.
The Palm Beach Post is working on the abrupt resignation from that end. Updates might reveal more. UPDATE: The newspaper's site is having problems, but I saw it briefly and there's a fresh quote that suggests Hardin had issues to deal with in Arkansas. The official said it might relate to past UCA issues, but he couldn't be sure.
The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale quotes a college official as saying Hardin resigned for "personal and family reasons." The resignation is being described by Florida media as "sudden" and "abrupt."
UPDATE: Law enforcement sources predict clarity on the issue will come Monday in Little Rock. Hardin's lawyer has not returned my calls.