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Former West Point superintendent Caslen is a finalist for South Carolina job

U.S. Military Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr. shakes hands with President Donald Trump during a May, 2018 White House ceremony honoring the West Point football team.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By ANNIE MARTIN | Orlando Sentinel | Published: April 18, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., hired to “lead change” at the University of Central Florida after school leaders acknowledged the use or planned misuse of more than $85 million in leftover operating funds for construction, is a finalist for the president’s job at the University of South Carolina.

The University of Central Florida tapped Caslen, 65, in January to serve as senior counsel to the president while the school conducted a national search for new administration and finance leadership. He was expected to stay for up to eight months, according to a press release announcing his hiring.

Caslen, a 43-year Army veteran, previously was the college president and superintendent at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. for five years.

Caslen said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel he expects his responsibilities at UCF to end mid-summer, about the time he would start work at South Carolina if he is selected.

“I’m not leaving because I’m dissatisfied,” he said. “I’m not leaving because I have another opportunity.”

Caslen’s duties at UCF have included making changes in the university’s organization and training senior leaders and trustees.

For the past couple of months, he has also served as the interim CFO. He said the university is wrapping up interviews with CFO applicants this week and expects to hire someone soon.

The problems with UCF’s spending first came to light last summer, after the state auditor general’s office flagged $38 million in remaining operating money budgeted for the construction of Trevor Colbourn Hall, a new academic facility that opened in August.

Caslen became the university’s interim CFO after Kathy Mitchell, who was named the interim CFO in September, stepped down in February. She had taken on that role when her predecessor, Bill Merck, resigned in response to the funding controversy.

South Carolina’s current president, Harris Pastides, is retiring July 31, according to The State newspaper in Columbia.

The other finalists for the post are John Strait Applegate, professor and executive vice president for university academic affairs in the Indiana University system; William F. Tate IV, dean of the graduate school and vice provost for graduate education at Washington University in St. Louis; and Joseph T. Walsh Jr., vice president for research at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

The finalists are expected to appear on the South Carolina campus next week for public forums.

At UCF, Caslen is a temporary employee and earns $156 per hour, which would be $325,728 if he worked full-time for a year.

In his application to South Carolina, Caslen wrote that his duties at UCF include ensuring “resources are utilized to their greatest potential to foster academic excellence and student success.”

anmartin@orlandosentinel.com

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