Winona State University announced a reassignment to new duties for the Vice President for University Advancement on Thursday, Jan. 22.
According to an email sent to all university accounts, the direction Ernie Hughes introduced did not align with President Scott Olson’s vision for advancing Winona State.
His new duties will focus on “enrollment strategies that will benefit the university,” the email read.
Previous Vice President Gary Evans will return and serve as an interim until a new vice president can be found. The university’s search will “begin immediately,” according to the email.
Hughes was an “at-will” employee of the university, which means an employee can be fired without a just cause for termination.
Olson hired Hughes in June 2014 and his term started Aug. 11, 2014 with a salary of $155,000.
The job description included planning, coordinating, managing and implementing all fundraisers for Winona State and the WSU Foundation, which provides scholarships for students and funding for university programs.
Hughes was also a senior member on the president’s Council of Administrators and served on the President’s Cabinet.
Other duties included reaching out to business and community leaders as well as supervising advancement, communications, alumni services, creative services, government relations, Foundation finance and communicates with the Foundation Board of Trustees.
Hughes’s resume showed several degrees in leadership and advancement positions. He holds a doctor of philosophy degree in human resource development from Louisiana State University, a master of business administration degree in marketing and a bachelor of business administration degree in finance and logistics from Mississippi State University.
Before his position at Winona State, Hughes held similar positions. From August 2010 to October 2013, he was the vice president for advancement and executive director of the System Foundation at Southern University System in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is a network of five universities in Louisiana.
According to his resume, during his term at Southern University System, he increased donations by 34 percent, increased unrestricted gifts by 37 percent with the creation of a leadership giving society. He was also responsible for soliciting gifts of $5,000 and higher from alumni and non-alumni friends. Notably, he secured a $2.4 million gift for the University system.
Alex Hines, inclusion and diversity director at WSU, was acquainted with Hughes during his time at WSU.
“I think he’s a dynamic African-American male,” Hines said. “He’s genuine, sincere, honest. We enjoyed each other’s company.”
Hughes and Olson were unavailable for comment. Olson was off-campus at the MnSCU Board Meeting and deferred to Cristeen Custer, assistant vice president for marketing and communications, who said in an email that the statement sent on Jan. 22, “is the only information we will be providing on this topic.”
Photos courtesy of Winona State University.