Blake Not Expected To Return To Mount Mercy After Sabbatical

By Diane Heldt, Reporter

Dr. Christopher Blake, president of Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, gives a welcoming speech to guests and 32 masters graduates at a commencement ceremony in May 2010. (John Beyer/KCRG-TV9)

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By Richard Pratt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Mount Mercy University President Christopher Blake is not expected to return to the university after his one-year sabbatical ends next May, a school spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The Mount Mercy spokeswoman also confirmed that Provost Melody Graham has taken a leave of absence.

"From what I understand, they are two separate employee matters and they were addressed by the board of trustees independently," said Lisa Lafler, assistant vice president for communications and marketing at Mount Mercy. "Certainly, we have great confidence in our board of trustees and the work that's being done to appoint our interim president."

Mount Mercy officials last week announced that Blake requested and was granted a one-year sabbatical, to run through May 2014. Blake has been president for seven years, leading the school through the launch of new programs and a move to university designation. Mount Mercy has provided no details about the reason for the sabbatical.

Lafler on Wednesday said details remain to be determined, but it's likely Blake will leave the university upon completion of his one-year sabbatical.

"It is not expected that Dr. Blake will return to his position at the close of his sabbatical," she said.

The Mount Mercy board is getting close to appointing a transitional president, Lafler said, and those details likely will be announced this week or early next week.

Regarding the university provost, Lafler said Graham has taken a leave of absence, but no details were available about the length of that leave or when Graham might return. Graham has been with Mount Mercy since 1991, serving in numerous faculty and leadership roles.

"Details of Dr. Graham's leave are still being decided, so I'm not in a position to be able to comment on that further," Lafler said, calling it a personnel matter.

Jan Handler, vice provost and professor of education, is serving as acting provost during Graham's leave, Lafler said.

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