Cathy Monteroso made history Wednesday night, but her focus is on the future of West Liberty University.
The WLU Board of Governors, in a unanimous 11-0 vote, elected Monteroso as interim president of the university effective January 1. She will replace incumbent President W. Franklin Evans, whose contract was not renewed on the August ballot, and will end her two-year term on December 31.
Pending approval from the West Virginia Commission on Higher Education Policy, Monteroso will be the first woman to lead the university in its history. Her appointment will continue until June 30.
“I feel very honored that they asked me to do it,” Monteroso said after the meeting. “I believe in this institution and I think we have a lot of really positive things going on and I’m delighted to be able to help lead those initiatives that we have.”
Monteroso has been with the university for 14 years, first as a faculty member and then as dean of the College of Education and Human Performance. She has been interim provost and vice president for academic affairs since January 2022.
He earned his Ph.D. from Northcentral University, his master’s from Azusa Pacific University, and his bachelor’s from East Tennessee State University.
BOG President Rich Lucas checked off a list of attributes that he said made Monteroso the right choice as interim president.
“Experience, qualifications, professionalism, history with our faculty and staff and our Board of Governors,” he said. “It is his dedication, first and foremost, and his willingness to serve the university in any capacity that has been asked of him. She always comes out with a great result.”
As interim president, Monteroso said she wants to continue to promote the unique programs that West Liberty offers, which she believes will help increase enrollment. She also wants to promote the history of the university. She believes that West Liberty is the best regional university in West Virginia and she wants as many people as possible to find out about it.
As for becoming the first woman to lead WLU, Monteroso said she hadn’t had time to think about her appointment that way. She is proud to have broken that barrier, especially on the 50th anniversary of Title IX.
“I think the opportunity they are giving me is a phenomenal opportunity,” she said. “We do a lot to support women in a big way on this campus, and with that we will be able to continue to support everyone on this campus.”
Lucas said breaking that barrier wasn’t the reason Monteroso got the call, but he’s pleased that she could be the person to make history. He is confident that she can run the university, that she is trying to get out of a tumultuous period.
In his first year as president, Evans was found to have copied quotes without attribution from various sources in multiple speeches he gave to the community. He would later apologize.
He narrowly kept his job in a 7-5 BOG vote in October 2021. The WLU faculty senate then cast a vote of no confidence in a 14-1 vote with one abstention. A survey of teachers in April showed a significant lack of confidence among teachers in their leadership and personal integrity.
Evans later attributed some of that criticism against him to race, wondering if the situation would be different if he were not the WLU’s first black president. So the BOG decided not to renew his contract in August.
The WLU presidential search committee recently agreed on the search schedule. AGB Search Firm representatives will conduct listening sessions on campus on January 10 and 11. The formal search will begin the week of February 6 and the application deadline will be the week of March 17.
“Dr. Monteroso now has the task of a very important job and a lot of effort”, Lucas said. “That’s why we chose her. So she will step up on January 1st. We know she’s ready. I think the Board of Governors is very confident that she will fill the interim role and she will carry the banner of professionalism and university.”