Cal State appoints interim principal to lead university system after chancellor resigns

Jolene Koester, the former president of Cal State Northridge, will take office as interim chancellor of the 23-campus California State University, administrators announced Thursday.

Koester, 74, will take the top job on May 1 and is expected to stay for a year while the university searches for a permanent chancellor.

The position was opened on Feb. 17 when Chancellor Joseph Castro abruptly resigned, less than two years after taking office, as administrators considered investigating his handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a former Cal administrator. State Fresno when he was president there, from 2013 to 2020.

The pressure on Castro intensified after USA Today reported Feb. 3 that Castro appeared to have ignored years of complaints against then-vice president of student affairs Frank Lamas before signing a settlement agreement that allowed Lamas to retire.

Koester will become the ninth Chancellor to lead the system of 477,000 students and 56,000 employees, headquartered in Long Beach.

“I look forward to learning and providing my skills to guide the university during this transformative time in CSU history,” Koester, who led Cal State Northridge from 2000 to 2011, said in a statement. .

A senior consultant for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Koester previously spent 17 years at Cal State Sacramento in an array of academic roles, including professor in the communications department and provost. She holds a doctorate in oral communication from the University of Minnesota.

“Dr. Koester is the ideal person to lead CSU during this time,” Lillian Kimbell, chair of the CSU board of directors, said in a statement.

Although the university’s student graduation and retention rates have never been higher, “there is still a lot of work to be done,” Kimbell said.

The university announced this week that it will join many other universities, including the University of California, in ending its use of SAT and ACT standardized test scores for admissions decisions.

University officials praised Koester’s work at Cal Northridge, where enrollment grew more than 25%, to nearly 37,000 out of 29,000 students, during his tenure. Graduation and retention rates have also improved, they said.

Koester will earn an annual salary of $625,000 and receive monthly allowances of $7,917 for housing and $1,000 for a car. The levels are the same as former Chancellor Castro.

Nanette Asimov is an editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @NanetteAsimov