KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Retired Air Force Gen. Robert “Doc” Foglesong quit as president of Mississippi State University this week amid gripes from students and faculty over everything from the removal of campus daffodils to his micromanaging leadership style.
Such complaints bring back memories for many airmen who served under him when he was commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe. The former four-star general served as the top officer from the command’s headquarters at Ramstein Air Base from August 2003 to December 2005.
Vincent Barnes, a former Air Force staff sergeant in the United Kingdom when Foglesong was commander, said it is hardly surprising that he did not last long as head of the university.
“A lot of what he did seemed like it wasn’t based in reality,” said Barnes, who now lives in Germany. “Me, I didn’t dislike him. He had a lot of success here. But it was his way or the highway. There was no compromise. That’s the type of guy he is.”
Foglesong, who took on the $429,000-a-year university presidency shortly after officially retiring in February 2006, resigned Friday after less than two years. In a statement, he wrote that he is leaving “with the express purpose of helping the university move forward.”
He did not give any additional details. Efforts to contact Foglesong on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
In the last few months, students and faculty members have criticized Foglesong over various issues. Faculty members openly lambasted him for his lack of attendance at their meetings, according to various media reports. He ridiculed many of his critics in a newsletter posted on Mississippi State’s Web site.
“Concerning the comments about my leadership style, most of the advice I get — including that from faculty members — is to just ignore them,” he wrote in November.
He attracted the biggest uproar over allegations that he ordered the removal of some beloved daffodils. Students started a “Save the MSU Daffodils” campaign on the Facebook social networking Web site.
Comments on the Internet this past week have offered a mixed, but sometimes scathing commentary on his brief legacy as president.
While USAFE commander, his penchant for keeping a clean and beautiful base spawned the “Combat Proud” program that involved airmen doing everything from picking up cigarette butts to planting flowers.
Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Hunt, who is stationed in Kaiserslautern, remembers Foglesong for being very structured as a leader. He said he is not surprised he didn’t last as a university leader because his skills as a military leader probably didn’t transfer very well to an academic setting.
“You can’t expect civilians to bend to a more structured, military way,” he said.