Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Longest serving MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson not seeking reelection

August 19, 2020
Trustee Joel Ferguson during the MSU Board of Trustees meeting at the Hannah Administration Building on June 21, 2019.
Trustee Joel Ferguson during the MSU Board of Trustees meeting at the Hannah Administration Building on June 21, 2019. —
Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

Joel Ferguson — the Michigan State University Board of Trustee's longest-serving board member — announced he will not be seeking a fourth reelection in the upcoming November election, according to a Wednesday press release.

In 2018, Ferguson received national attention for his comments during the aftermath of the Larry Nassar case, saying “there’s so many more things going at the university than just this Nassar thing.” Following Nassar's sentencing and ex-MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon's resignation, he apologized to survivors for these comments.

This comment was made after the board — except for then-trustee Mitch Lyonsaffirmed their trust in Simon.

"Joel Ferguson should have resigned years ago," ReclaimMSU said in a statement. "We are glad that he has finally recognized the need to step aside, after repeatedly minimizing the Nassar scandal and stonewalling attempts to investigate its causes. The Board must embrace a new era of transparency, which should begin with a waiver of privilege so that the office of the Attorney General can finally complete its investigation."

However, Ferguson said the calls for his removal did not influence his decision. What influences him are those who actually know him.

"Not remotely," he said. "My whole life is about people who know me and how they feel about me and that influences me. People who don't know me, who haven't met me at all, that stuff, that doesn't mean anything. ... People who I don't even know, I read some of these shots that someone takes (at) me and people I've never met and don't know and that has no influence whatsoever on me."

The release cited Ferguson's wish to concentrate on his development projects underway across the state of Michigan as reasoning to not run again.

He is a statewide developer, with 14 multi-family residential complexes throughout Michigan with more planned.

"I've got these four major real estate developments across the state that aren't easy. It took me a lot of years to get the Red Cedar (Project) started, so this was a perfect time right now to go out."

Ferguson is also an investment partner on the $256 million Red Cedar Project that plans a mixed-use development along the Michigan Avenue corridor with 792 beds of student housing, 181 market-rate apartments and two hotels under construction.

Trustee Brianna Scott and he were awarded a bid development on a downtown Muskegon building in September. The building is being redeveloped into a mixed-use property with commercial and residential spaces. 

Ferguson was elected to the board in 1986 and has been reelected three times. He has served as chairperson of the board six times and vice-chair five times.

He said the university, has "good people in place right now," noting the work of MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Athletic Director Bill Beekman, Board chairperson Dianne Byrum and the rest of the board.

In the release, Ferguson said he was actively supporting Democrats Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Gary Peters, Elissa Slotkin and new MSU board candidate Rema Vassar, who he thinks will make a great asset to MSU.

"She's smart; she's aggressive," Ferguson said. "She's educated, she's smart and furthermore, she'll come on the board and just talk to you. You know it's not about her; it's about the university."

In May, the Michigan AFL-CIO announced their endorsements for Vassar and Trustee Brian Mosallam, who is seeking reelection as well.

Over the last few years, there have been calls for Ferguson and other "legacy" board members to be removed relating to their handling of Nassar's sexual abuse scandal at the university.

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