The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

ENMU president leaving next week


April 15, 2020

PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University Chancellor and Portales campus president Jeff Elwell tendered his resignation from the school, effective April 24.

The ENMU board of regents accepted the resignation in an emergency meeting Friday, and named Patrice Caldwell as interim chancellor.

Elwell, who joined the university in 2017, announced last month he would resign no later than June 30, 2021.

It wasn't immediately clear why the university's 10th president in leaving so soon, and regents declined to give a specific reason during the meeting. Elwell was not in attendance at the meeting, and phone and email messages were not returned.

Following the 5-0 vote to elevate Caldwell to the chancellor position, board president Terry Othick noted Caldwell had worked for the university for more than four decades and has an “encyclopedic knowledge” of the university.

“Dr. Caldwell is Eastern New Mexico University,” Regent Dan Patterson said. “She’s been here a long time. Her integrity is above reproach. I look forward to working with her.”

Caldwell is currently serving as vice president for planning, analysis and governmental relations. She planned to retire July 31 and said she "absolutely, positively, definitively" has no plans to apply for the permanent chancellor position.

“I will need all of your help in accomplishing what we need to accomplish in making sure our students’ needs are being met,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell told regents the most important things to remember going forward are the university’s mission and the importance of its people in accomplishing that mission.

“Thank you for your confidence,” Caldwell said. “I’ll try not to let you down in any respect.”

Following the meeting, Caldwell told The News ENMU's three biggest obligations and opportunities were to redefine education through online methods, survive pending state budget cuts and to approach everything without being paralyzed by fear.

A contract and salary are still pending for Caldwell, who first joined the university in 1980 as an assistant professor and served nearly a decade as dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences. Caldwell, who worked with Elwell and five of his predecessors, will be the Portales campus’ first female president.

Regents met for about an hour in closed session before announcing Elwell’s resignation. The vote was 4-0, with Student Regent Joseph Gergel abstaining because he was uncomfortable with language in the agreement. He declined to elaborate when contacted following the meeting.

Elwell said last month he was unsure if he would simply retire, find a teaching position, be an administrator somewhere else or work outside of higher education.

In a letter sent to the campus, Elwell said he wanted to give the regents 14 months to determine a succession plan.


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