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September 24, 2017

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Former UNLV leader on short list for presidency at New Mexico State


Steve Marcus

Then-UNLV President David Ashley and his wife, Bonnie, attend an exhibit opening in February 2009 at UNLV.

David Ashley

UNLV President David Ashley listens during a Board of Regents meeting at the Desert Research Institute Friday, June 19. Launch slideshow »

David Ashley, the embattled former president of UNLV, has been named a finalist for president of New Mexico State University.

A presidential search committee on Tuesday delivered the names of five finalists – including Ashley – to the New Mexico board of regents.

The New Mexico higher education leaders used a search firm, which vetted 57 people and interviewed 11 candidates for the position vacated by Barbara Coulture. She resigned in October amid declining student enrollment and research funding, and a nursing school that recently lost its accreditation.

The five finalists are Ashley; Guy Bailey, former president of the University of Alabama and Texas Tech University; Garrey Carruthers, business college dean at New Mexico State University; Daniel Howard, dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences at University of Colorado Denver; and Elsa Murano, president emerita of Texas A&M University.

Larry Lujan, who chairs the presidential search committee, said any one of the five finalists would be "an excellent president."

“The committee was dedicated to what was best for NMSU. We focused on excellence throughout," Lujan said in a statement. "We wanted to deliver a list of finalists that would make the regents selection difficult because anyone of them will be a great president for our university.”

Ashley was the eighth president of UNLV, serving for three tumultuous years.

While some commended Ashley for guiding the university in the immediate aftermath of the Great Recession, others were critical of his management style and his response to stakeholder concerns.

Nevada's higher education leaders were alarmed Ashley did not tow the line when it came to the system's lobbying efforts before the Legislature. Alumni criticized him for blowing off university events, including a tailgate party. Faculty members were split on his leadership skills and whether he was supportive enough of research.

Detractors also pointed to Ashley's headstrong wife, Bonnie, who received public scrutiny for her clashes with UNLV staff.

Leaked emails between Bonnie Ashley – who had referred to herself as the university's "first lady" – and campus staff were characterized by critics as being abrasive, rude and intimidating.

In June 2009, then-higher education Chancellor Jim Rogers recommended Ashley be fired. A month later, Ashley was demoted to a university faculty position in an unanimous vote by regents.

Since then, Ashley has served as professor of engineering at UNLV.

Prior to coming to UNLV, Ashley was the founding executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California, Merced. He was also the dean of engineering at The Ohio State University and the chair of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California. Berkeley.

Ashley's research on the risk management of large-scale construction projects earned him recognition from the National Science Foundation and the American Society of Civil Engineers. He also has received several awards, including being inducted as a member of the National Academy of Construction in October 2008.

Ashley earned bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a second master's and doctorate degrees from Stanford University.

Ashley is expected to travel to New Mexico for two days of interviews starting April 25. New Mexico State University regents hope to select a new president by May.

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