Louis Agnese Jr. announced his retirement as president of University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) on Friday. It’s the latest twist of a saga that started 38 days ago when Agnese’s strange behavior and racist remarks led the UIW Board of Trustees to end his 30-year presidential reign.
Also on Friday, the board voted to name Agnese president emeritus and announced plans to hold a retirement dinner to celebrate the man who, just weeks ago, threatened to “sue the pants off” the school and its chairman, Charles Lutz.
“We had very positive and affirming conversations with Dr. Agnese in the last few weeks and both the board and Dr. Agnese are highly encouraged about the future of this important relationship,” Lutz stated in a university news release.
Though the full extent of Agnese’s actions is unknown, a student reported being “viscerally sickened” by the former president’s insulting jokes about blacks, American Indians, Hispanics, Mormons, and a female student’s intelligence at a student luncheon, according to a leaked complaint.
The leak came seven days after UIW apologized for Agnese’s “sporadic uncharacteristic behavior” and placed him on a 90-day medical leave, triggering a series of expletive-riddled threats from Agnese and a vehement denial of having any medical condition.
The most recent statement, however, claims Agnese’s long-time physician and specialists “have concluded that he was in fact suffering from treatable ailments, including severe exhaustion.”
“Dr. Agnese has indicated that the care prescribed by these doctors has been effective and we are pleased and relieved at his progress,” university officials stated in the news release.
Known by some for his blunt speech and imperious leadership style and by others as charismatic and approachable, Agnese’s positive mark on the university is undeniable. Though his unrelenting business acumen signaled a substantial shift from that of his predecessor, President Emeritus Sister Margaret Patrice Slattery, many credit Agnese with the university’s resurgence out of a period of declining enrollment.
Becoming UIW’s eighth president in 1986 at the young age of 33, Agnese grew the university from 1,296 students in 1985 to 10,984 in 2015, making UIW the third-largest private university in Texas, according to the university website.
“Dr. Agnese has meant so much to this University in his more than 30-year tenure as President and it has been our hope that we would all be able to honor his achievements and legacy at UIW,” the news release stated.
Denise Doyle, UIW provost emerita, has served as interim president since Agnese’s medical leave began on Aug. 18.
“(Doyle) will continue in that role until a new President is selected,” the statement added. “A search committee will be organized soon to begin a national search for a new UIW President.”