West Virginia Wesleyan College announces sudden departure of president Joel Thierstein

In a brief three-sentence press release, West Virginia Wesleyan College announced the sudden departure of president Dr. Joel Thierstein on Thursday afternoon.

“Dr. James Moore has been named the Interim President of West Virginia Wesleyan College,” the release states. “We are optimistic that Dr. Moore’s leadership, skills, experience, and enthusiasm will enable the college to continue on a path to success for every member of the college’s community. Dr. Moore replaces Dr. Joel Thierstein and the college appreciates Dr. Thierstein’s service.”

Moore did not return a call to comment on the decision, and the college communications office refused to release any additional details on the timing, which came as a surprise — information released as recently as this month gave no indication the president would be leaving.

Thierstein’s biographical information had been removed from the “Meet Our President” section on the college’s website as of Thursday afternoon, and the WVWCPrez accounts on Twitter and Facebook had been deleted.

The abrupt announcement stands in contrast to Wesleyan’s last presidential decision. Thierstein was selected as the president of the college in October 2016 after an extensive search, taking the reins from Dr. Pamela Balch, who had served in the role for 10 years. He was inaugurated as Wesleyan’s 19th president the following year.

Thierstein earned a Ph.D., master of science and bachelor of science from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, as well as a J.D. from Syracuse University, E.I. White College of Law, the college said in a 2017 press release. Before coming to Buckhannon, he held administration positions at Mount St. Joseph University, Kentucky State University, Rice University, Oregon State University and Baylor University, according to the release.

Moore, the interim president, has worked his way through the ranks at the school. He served as Director of Jazz Ensembles from 2006 to 2017, when he was named Dean of the Faculty. He is also the Chief Academic Officer at the school.

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