Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young announced Tuesday afternoon that he will step down Dec. 31, five months earlier than his previously announced plans to retire at the end of May.
Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced later in the day that he is recommending A&M aerospace engineering professor John L. Junkins serve as interim president until a permanent successor is named.
After leaving the post, Young will become the first director of the Institute for Religious Liberties and International Affairs at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service. Additionally, Young will become a tenured faculty member at the Texas A&M School of Law.
“We have a busy month ahead with final exams, graduation ceremonies, athletic events and holidays. I will be engaged to finish out this year successfully and facilitate a smooth transition,” Young said in a statement posted on a university website. “Thank you for the incredible opportunity to serve as your 25th President. As this great university goes forward, please take care of each other, Aggies.”
Young, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has been the leader of Texas A&M’s flagship campus since 2015. In September, he announced he planned to retire from the presidency at the end of May.
“As this year comes to an end, I have also had time to reflect on my own interests and where I can make the greatest contribution,” Young said in Tuesday’s statement. “After a quarter of a century in senior academic leadership roles, I find myself increasingly drawn to return to the passions that drew me to a career in higher education in the first place.”
Prior to coming to the Brazos Valley, he was a president and tenured professor of law at the University of Washington, and had previously spent time at the University of Utah, George Washington University Law School and Columbia University.
Sharp, in a statement, thanked Young for his work and credited him for the flagship’s growth and increased research expenditures.
“President Young faced a critical final year because of the pandemic, but he and the campus leadership have navigated it well. They deserve our thanks,” Sharp wrote.
Sharp, in a statement, described Junkins as an accomplished researcher and an outstanding teacher. Junkins is a Distinguished Professor of Aerospace Engineering and the holder of the Royce E. Wisenbaker Chair in Innovation in the College of Engineering as well as Founding Director of the Hagler Institute of Advanced Study.
“He also will bring a steady hand to the tiller to ensure that Texas A&M successfully navigates the next few months until a successor is named,” Sharp said of Junkins.
The Eagle reported in 2019 that Junkins’ career has included work that supported numerous spaceflight missions, including the final three Apollo missions (Apollo 15, 16 and 17).
The Texas Tribune reported last year that Young’s five-year employment contract with A&M would not be renewed; a letter that Sharp sent at the time said it was not a reflection of his performance. Young was announced as the sole finalist for the A&M presidency in February 2015.
“As I reflect on the year, I am immensely thankful that we have arrived where we are. We have combatted the pandemic with some success — and must continue to do so — while maintaining focus upon continuity of health and safety, our educational and research mission, best-in-class athletics, and, as always, our core values,” Young said. “We are clearly not out of the woods yet, but I am confident that we have the necessary processes, people and tools in place to successfully navigate the coming year.”
Texas A&M announced in September that the goal was to find a new president by June 1. It was unclear Tuesday if that timeline had changed.