Susan C. Aldridge will resign as president of University of Maryland, University College, the state's leading online educational institution, at the end of March.
Aldridge had been on unexplained administrative leave since the end of February, and Thursday's announcement of her resignation shed little light on the reason for her sudden exit.
"Given all that we have accomplished over the past six years, I think this is a good time to step down," Aldridge said in a statement released by the state university system. "We have expanded academic programs in critical workforce shortage areas such as cybersecurity and homeland security."
She did not respond to calls or emails seeking further comment.
Aldridge, 60, had served as president of UMUC, which claims more than 90,000 students, operates branches in Asia and Europe, and educates U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, since 2006. She is regarded as a national leader in online and distance education.
"During Susan's tenure, UMUC advanced measurably," said system Chancellor William E. Kirwan in a statement. "The institution's innovation and responsiveness in addressing critical workforce demands make it an invaluable resource for USM, the state, and indeed the nation. On behalf of the University System of Maryland, I thank Susan for her service and wish her much success in the years ahead."
In an interview Thursday afternoon, Kirwan said he could not elaborate on the reasons behind Aldridge's departure because it is a personnel issue. He said he does not anticipate making further statements on the circumstances of Aldridge's leave or resignation.
Javier Miyares, the university's former senior vice president for institutional effectiveness, will continue to serve as acting president as the system seeks a full-time replacement for Aldridge. Kirwan said the search might not begin for a few months but that he anticipates having a replacement by this time next year.
Kirwan praised the Adelphi-based university, saying it gives Maryland an enormous leg up on states that don't operate full online institutions. Because it serves so many students with relatively low overhead costs, UMUC is a major contributor to the system's overall revenue flow.
A UMUC spokesman said Miyares was not available for interviews on Thursday, but in a statement, the acting president acknowledged that the university had "weathered a challenging period" in recent weeks.
Like system leaders, he praised Aldridge's record without making any reference to the reasons for her departure.
Richard F. Blewitt, a member of the university's board of visitors, said, "All I know is that in the final part of this, it was her decision to resign."
Blewitt said the board had been "very high on Susan" but added, "I don't think we'll miss a beat."
Aldridge will officially remain on administrative leave until the end of August and will also serve UMUC as an adviser "working on special projects" during that period. Kirwan said he has already begun developing a list of projects on which she will assist.
"She has great expertise in the area of adult online education, which is one of the hottest areas in higher education," the chancellor said. "So we are pleased that we will be able to draw on that."
Aldridge will continue to earn her full $306,800 salary through August, Kirwan said, but will not receive a severance package beyond that.