TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Former University of Alabama President Guy Bailey said he resigned because his ill wife would drive herself to meet the social obligations of being a president's wife and that would put her life at risk.
"My wife would die for me," Bailey told al.com (http://bit.ly/VLZ2CW ). "In this job, that means she would drive herself to meet the social obligations of her position no matter how much doing that would risk her life. I could not allow that to happen."
The University of Alabama System trustees hired Bailey in July in lead his alma mater. He began work on Sept. 4 and resigned in late October after 58 days on the job.
Bailey's wife, Jan Tillery-Bailey, has battled cancer and has complications from surgery that have impaired her ability to absorb nutrients in food. Bailey said her health and her limitations were understood at Texas Tech University, where he served as president before moving to Alabama. But he said there was a mistaken expectation by some at Alabama that his wife would carry out some social duties.
Bailey cited a long text message to his wife detailing the fall social calendar of events for the wife of the president.
"I think I misjudged the pressures of the job Jan would be required to do and perhaps some misunderstood the limits of what Jan could do," Bailey said.
Bailey blames himself for making it possible for some to misunderstand the serious nature of his wife's illness.
"Shortly after arriving Jan made two public appearances that I think led some to conclude she was able to carry out a calendar of duties that she simply could not do," he said. "What no one saw was how much those two appearances took out of her and how much time it took for her to recover. If I had stayed in the job, Jan would have felt an obligation to me to make such appearances and it would have risked her life."
Bailey, 60, brought with him two top assistants from Texas Tech and they were given the power to act on his behalf in day-to-day operations. That management style was new to Alabama.
"For a long time the chain of command at Alabama allowed deans and vice presidents to have direct access to the president and I guess over time that access had become, for some, a status thing," said Steve Miller, president of the Faculty Senate and dean of the School of Library and Information Studies.
"When Dr. Bailey came in, he instituted this change and it might have rankled some, but it was really not a big deal. Personally, I welcomed the change," he told al.com.
Bailey was aware his management style caused some concern, but he was sure the changes would come to be accepted.
"The whole goal was to get more information up the food chain to me faster by making available to the senior leadership not just the president, but staff who had authority to act on my behalf," he said.
Bailey said he also became aware that some trustees wanted to see him more engaged with key constituents of the university and important corporate and political leaders in the state.
"I don't think it was a serious problem but just a function of being new and getting my legs under me," he said.
Bailey offered his resignation in a meeting called by the chancellor of the University of Alabama System, Robert Witt, to discuss trustee concerns.
"I was not fired. I was not forced out," Bailey said. "In fact, I think they made every effort to try to convince me to stay."
Bailey's resignation came about two weeks after the university ended all pledging activities by fraternities amid allegations of hazing at some fraternities. Bailey said he approved that decision, but it had nothing to do with his departure.
"I think it was the right thing to do and I received absolutely no interference from trustees or anybody else in doing it," he said.
The university announced Bailey's resignation on Oct. 31 and agreed to pay his base salary of $535,000 for one year.
The chancellor has turned down requests for an interview about Bailey's departure.
In a statement, Witt said, "Within several weeks of arriving, he told us he simply could not meet the duties of the job and take care of his wife Jan at the same time. We have great respect and empathy for what he did. I made the decision to recommend to the board that we continue to pay him so he would have the necessary resources to deal with his wife's extremely challenging health issues. We believe that was the right thing to do."
Information from: The Birmingham News, http://www.al.com/birminghamnews