University President Michael V. Drake discusses the Ohio State mental health task force during an interview with The Lantern Sept. 9. Credit: Amal Saeed | Photo Editor

University President Michael V. Drake will retire from his current role in 2020, according to an Ohio State press release. After nearly six years at the head of the university, Drake said he will step down to fill a faculty position.

Drake, who has served as president since June 2014, said in the release that the timing of the position change “is right for Ohio State and his family.”

“Ohio State is a very special place. Brenda and I are blessed to be part of the incredible Buckeye community,” Drake said in the release. “The work being done at this university through teaching, learning, research, creative expression, community engagement and leading-edge partnerships is unprecedented in our 150-year history.”

The university will launch a national search for its next president, and the search committee will be chaired by trustee Lewis Von Thaer. Drake said that it was important to him that the university be “accelerating on the path forward” when he retires, and the Board of Trustees Chairman Gary Heminger said in the release that the timing was right. 

“The university has never been stronger, and there couldn’t be a better time to position a new leader for success,” Heminger said in the release.

Before coming to the university, Drake worked as chancellor at the University of California Irvine. When appointed to Ohio State, he became the first black president in the university’s history.

The announcement comes as the full Board will consider raising Drake’s salary 2.5 percent — $21,750 — today. The Talent, Compensation and Governance Committee did not approve a bonus Wednesday as they have in previous years. 

According to the release, the university has seen “all-time highs” in areas such as applications, academic preparedness and diversity of five consecutive incoming classes to the Columbus campus, retention rates, research expenditures and industry-sponsored research, graduation rates, the total number of graduates, patient care and support from donors.  

The release says the university’s performance in these areas is the best in Ohio State’s history and is among the strongest in the nation.

Drake’s retirement also comes as the university faces 14 lawsuits regarding abuse by former Ohio State physician Dr. Richard Strauss. The university is in mediation with the victims, but no settlement has been reached. 

Strauss was the team doctor for 17 men’s varsity sports and a physician at the Ohio State Student Wellness Center from 1978 to ’98, during which time he abused at least 177 students and student-athletes, according to a report released in May, following an investigation conducted by Perkins Coie, LLP. The investigation also found that Ohio State failed to act on Strauss’ abuse at the time.  

Strauss died by suicide in 2005.

Strauss is not the only challenge Drake has faced during his tenure at Ohio State. 

Drake joined the university in 2014 amid an Ohio State Marching Band scandal following an investigation into the culture of the band. The investigation found that there were “some serious cultural issues and an environment conducive to sexual harassment,” the report stated, and band director Jonathan Waters was fired. 

The day Waters was fired, Drake released a statement and video about the decision, according to previous Lantern reporting. 

The university also saw the closure of the Sexual Civility and Empowerment office, under the Office of Student Life, in June 2018 following an external review that determined SCE had failed to properly document and report information regarding some sexual assault complaints made by students.

Drake announced the formation of the Suicide and Mental Health Task force in April 2018 after two students fell from university parking garages within days of each other, according to previous Lantern reporting. The task force released recommendations in September 2018, including one for the Buckeye Peer Access Line — a nonemergency, peer-to-peer talk line that offers support and direction to campus mental health resources — which went live in September 2019.

The formation of a sexual abuse task force was announced in May 2019 in light of cases of serial abuse at institutions of higher education and the conclusion from an independent investigation that found Ohio State failed to stop Strauss from abusing 177 student-athletes. 

The task force’s formation was completed in September 2019 and is expected to summarize sexual abuse instances within the last 10 years at institutions of higher education and determine themes appearing throughout the instances, identify educational tools for developing awareness, identify the best practices for promoting action and assisting in reporting on college campuses, and identify the most sustainable forms of support and recovery, according to an October Ohio State press release about the task force.

In August 2017, Ohio State launched an investigation into former head football coach Urban Meyer following the firing of former wide receivers coach Zach Smith in light of allegations of domestic violence. 

Also under Drake’s presidency, Ohio State implemented a tuition freeze for in-state students for the first time in 40 years and has committed more than $150 million in additional need-based aid since 2015, according to the release. The university also began its Digital Flagship partnership with Apple in fall 2018. 

The university announced its campaign to engage 1 million supporters as part of its Time and Change: The Ohio State Campaign. According to the release, Ohio State has raised nearly $2.8 billion since the beginning of Drake’s tenure, starting in the 2015 fiscal year.  

Drake has also assumed multiple leadership positions during his years as president. Drake was the chair of the Board of Directors of the Association of American Universities from 2017-18, and in 2018, he served as chair for the Board of Directors for the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, according to the release. In 2019, Drake was elected chair of the Board of Governors of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Drake said in an email to students, faculty and staff sent Thursday that “the time is right to change the trajectory” of his and his wife Brenda’s lives after a combined 15 years of campus leadership both here and in California. 

“We love our work, and we could not be more proud of the great progress the university has made through your leadership and the collective focus and efforts of the entire Buckeye Nation,” Drake said in the email. “But time does not stand still, and what better time to pass the baton than at the completion of our 150th and strongest year ever. The Ohio State University is positioned for nothing but continued success.” 

This story was updated with additional background on President Drake’s time as president at 1:30 p.m.