Bonnin among host of administrators to depart UA this year


CW/ Joe Will Field

Rebecca Griesbach, News Editor

After reporting on a series of hires and fires this past semester, The Crimson White’s news desk charted leadership changes over the past five years in efforts to give a broader snapshot of administrative turnover. Here’s what we found.

The past two academic years hold the highest rates of administrative turnover that the University has seen since President Stuart Bell took office.

Only one month into the new year, the Jan. 31 resignation of Linda Bonnin, former vice president for strategic communications, marks the most recent of at least five projected administrative changes in 2020. Of those administrative changes, three are senior leadership positions: the vice president for student life, the vice president for strategic communications and the provost. 

After serving on Bell’s senior leadership team for four years, Bonnin resigned on Jan. 31 and has taken a position as the senior vice president for marketing and communications at Abilene Christian University.

Bonnin came to the University by way of LSU and has 23 years of experience in higher education and 20 years in leadership positions, five of which were at SEC schools. Her major contribution to the University was the “Where Legends Are Made” campaign, which garnered international awards last year. She also received the 2019 Silver Medal Award from AAF Tuscaloosa for her contributions to the advertising industry.

During her tenure at the University, Bonnin served on the board of directors of the American Advertising Federation in Tuscaloosa and the planning committee for the Tuscaloosa Bicentennial. 

“It has been an honor to serve at Alabama, and the opportunities it has afforded me have been invaluable,” Bonnin told The Tuscaloosa News on Dec. 11. “I’m ready for a new challenge at this point in my career. ACU’s mission and my personal goals are in alignment, and I look forward to helping ACU raise its national profile.”

One Among Many

Bell took presidential office in the 2015-16 school year after Judy Bonner’s three-year stint. Of the University’s current senior leadership team, the only member who has held a position for more than five years is Samory Pruitt, the vice president for community affairs. 

In 2015, three new members of the team of eight joined Bell in his presidential cabinet: Bonnin, David Grady and Bob Pierce.

“We welcomed several new faces to our leadership team this year, and I have enjoyed seeing their divisions, colleges and departments thrive already under their guidance,” Bell wrote in a 2015-2016 year in review publication. “There has never been a more exciting time to be at The University of Alabama.”

Five years later, just one of them remains. 

While Pierce still serves as the vice president for advancement, Bonnin and Grady, the former vice president of student life (VPSL), each held their positions for four years – a length that’s not uncommon among senior leadership.

In each of the five years examined, at least one member of the senior leadership has resigned, announced retirement or switched roles – and the same goes for deans. Among current deans, less than half have outlasted Bell’s five years in office, but only one – Charles Karr of the college of engineering – has held the position for more than 10 years.

This snapshot does not include executive positions within administrative cabinets, but just this year, at least three associate vice presidents and chief executives, two directors and and two police chiefs have left their positions.

Looking Ahead

Search processes for the three open senior leadership positions are underway.

University spokesperson Chris Bryant confirmed that Ryan Bradley will serve as the interim vice president for strategic communications, but said that “decisions related to the vice president for strategic communications position have not been made,” concerning a search committee or whether the process will be public.

The Crimson White recently covered candidate presentations for the VPSL position, which ended on Jan. 23, but a decision has not been announced on the final hire.

When asked about when the newest VPSL would be hired, Bryant told The Crimson White that “recruitment of the vice president for student life position is ongoing.” The incoming VPSL will be responsible for hiring a new dean and making other decisions related to the search process, according to Bryant.

“As you know, candidates were invited to campus for interviews and campus-wide presentations,” Bryant said in an email on Thursday. “We appreciate Dr. Kathleen Cramer’s service as interim vice president for student life.”

According to the search website for the incoming provost, candidates will be narrowed down by March or April, but it is unclear whether the candidates will present to a public forum.

CW reporters Javon Williams and Jeffrey Kelly contributed to the data in this report: