Benjamin Ladner

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Ben Ladner during a commencement ceremony

Benjamin Mance Ladner, Ph.D. (born October 30, 1941) is an academic expert in the fields of philosophy and religion. He was president of the National Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Sciences from 1980 to 1994 and American University from 1994 to 2005, when he resigned in disgrace.

His areas of professional interest and research are international relations and the role of higher education; education administration; religion and contemporary culture; and NCAA collegiate athletics.

He was previously married to Carolyn Cooper, with whom he had two sons, David and Mark, and later remarried to Nancy Bullard.


Ladner was born in Mobile, Alabama. He attended Murphy High School in Mobile followed by undergraduate study at Baylor University, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in 1963. Ladner earned a Bachelor of Divinity from Southern Seminary in 1966 and his Doctor of Philosophy from Duke University in 1970. His dissertation was on "Elizabeth Sewell: Poetic Method As An Instrument of Thinking and Knowing".

Ladner has also been awarded doctorates from Elizabethtown College, Sookmyung Women's University (South Korea) and Tashkent State Economic University (Uzbekistan).


Ladner began his academic career as a professor of philosophy and religion at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where he taught for more than a decade. While there, Ladner won the University Teaching Excellence Award and was elected to the National Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Sciences in 1975, an association of university professors founded by Phi Beta Kappa. He served as its president from 1980 to 1994.

In 1994, Ladner became president of American University. By the time of his departure in 2005, the school had become, according to Ladner's own LinkedIn profile, an international leader in global education and Ladner's administration had engineered historic records in every area throughout the university, including academic quality, national educational rankings, athletic championships, fundraising, endowment growth, enrollment numbers and quality, campus renovation, diversity of students, technology innovation, and faculty, and alumni support.[1]

American University[edit]

Ladner was appointed President of, and professor of philosophy and religion at, American University in 1994. His appointment is credited with bringing stability to the university after a period of turmoil and rapid turnover of presidents.[2] During his tenure, the university experienced financial and academic growth, along with recognition as a leading international university, that partnered with and helped found new universities around the world. The main thrust of Ladner's leadership was defined in a "15 point plan" in 2001, which was approved by faculty, staff and the board.[3]

During his tenure at AU president, Ladner chaired the Board of Trustees of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area, the Patriot League Council of Presidents, and served on numerous other boards and commissions including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the Washington Board of Trade, and the Committee for Economic Development, the Commission on International Education for the American Council on Education, among others.

He was also a member of the Federal Election Reform Commission, co-chaired by Jimmy Carter and James Baker; the NCAA Presidential Task Force on the Future of Intercollegiate Athletics; and a United Nations Advisory Group Member and Manuscript Reviewer for the ground-breaking Arab Human Development Report, 2002.

In 2003, Ladner fired Susan Clampitt as the head of university-owned WAMU, due to donor and staff outrage[4] at fiscal mismanagement of the NPR affiliate.[5] Clampitt later sued both Ladner and the university,[6] claiming that Ladner had approved all of her financial decisions, which depleted a $4 million endowment for the station. The Court of Appeals subsequently denied Clampitt's employment-related claims.

Work abroad[edit]

Ladner helped secure the release of individuals jailed for human rights protests and activities in the Palestinian Terrortories (West Bank) and Burma (Myanmar). Additionally, he led a series of face-to-face talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Washington, DC in 2003–2004.

In 2001, Ladner negotiated with the Chinese government for the release of Gao Zhan,[7] after she was held while being charged as a spy for the United States. Later, it was discovered that Zhan was actually a spy for the People's Republic of China, and she was charged with tax fraud and espionage by the United States but charges were dismissed and she was placed in protective custody after she participated in a CIA operation.[8]

Under Ladner's leadership, American University expanded its reach abroad after being selected as the primary contracting institution to develop and manage two new universities, on in the United Arab Emirates UAE and the other in Nigeria.

The Nigerian university, originally known as ABTI-American University (AAUN) and now called the American University of Nigeria (AUN), attracts students from all over Africa and around the world seeking an American style education. Unlike most universities in the country, AAUN offers a four-year undergraduate degree program divided among two years of general study followed by two of concentrated study in a major. This differs from most Nigerian universities which follow the British model in which students take classes only in their major.[9]

"We envision that AUN will become a model for American-style education in one of the African continent's most important countries," American University President Benjamin Ladner said.[10]

In the UAE, American University established the American University of Sharjah (AUS), which his Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah and Founder and President of AUS, commended for its successful growth.

"His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah congratulated the faculty, staff and management for the university's rapid growth and for the academic reputation AUS has earned in the region," AUS Chancellor Dr. Winfred Thompson said.[11]

Resignation from presidency of American University[edit]

Ladner came under increasing criticism for his high salary, lavish lifestyle, and his frequent travels to visit partnering universities throughout the world.

The website was created by students at the university in 2002 to highlight these criticisms, specifically Ladner's salary. In September 2004, Ladner filed a complaint with ICANN, alleging that the website's prominent use of his name caused confusion for visitors, causing them to believe it to be his own personal website.[12] ICANN ruled against Ladner,[13] refusing to remove the domain name because Ladner's name had no commercial value.[14]

A note similar to the one sent to the Board of Trustees, sent to student leaders

In August 2005, The Washington Post reported on the opening of an investigation by the American University Board of Trustees into Dr Ladner's expenses. An anonymous letter to the board, later revealed to be from Ladner's fired driver Reginald Green,[15] alleged that Ladner had improperly used university funds for personal expenses. Ladner was placed on administrative leave by the board pending the outcome of the investigation. On August 25, he was suspended from his post. On October 10, 2005, The Board of Trustees of American University announced that he would not return to American University as its president. The board upheld the accusations of excessive use of university money for private spending. While Dr. Ladner was never criminally accused of anything, the federal investigation is ongoing.[citation needed]

Ladner was given a $3.75 million severance package,[16] causing two trustees to resign.[17]

Former and current trustees, as well as current faculty and administrators, were called to testify at a March 2006 hearing by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee investigating fraud at nonprofit organizations.[18]

On April 1, 2006, Harry Jaffe wrote an article published in the Washingtonian summarizing Ladner's reign and fall at AU, detailing expenses and the board of trustees' tussle in support and against the president of AU, including attorneys advice that there was no enforceable contract and that Ladner was terminated for "cause or dishonesty".[19]


  1. ^ Benjamin Ladner LinkedIn Profile
  2. ^ "Dissecting Ladner's Legacy at the Helm of AU", Washington Post, P.A18, 9 October 2005
  3. ^ "Faculty named to governance task force", American Weekly, Sally Acharya and Kenny Lucas, February 29, 2001[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Crisis seen in WAMU spending", Current, Dan Odenwald, October 20, 2003 Archived August 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "American U. Ousts WAMU Director Susan Clampitt", Jennifer Frey, Washington Post, P.C01, 31 October 2003
  6. ^ "WAMU official contests her firing", Washington Times, 17 August 2004
  7. ^ "'Spy scholar' says she can breathe free",, July 27, 2001 Archived September 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Double Cross?", Susan Jakes, Time Magazine, December 1, 2003
  9. ^ "American University assists Nigeria in establishing U.S.—style University," Phaedra Brotherton, BNet, December 2, 2004 [1]
  10. ^ "Nigeria gets first American-style varsity in sub-Sahara Africa," Segun Adeyemi, The Daily Sun, November 9, 2004 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-03-21. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  11. ^ "Sultan congratulates AUS for growth, reputation," American University of Sharjah news, November 27, 2004 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-07-02. 
  12. ^ Washington Post, "AU President Challenges Web Site That Bears His Name", Amy Argetsinger, September 12, 2004, P.C01
  13. ^ Washington Post, "AU President Loses Web Site Challenge", Karlyn Barker, October 21, 2004, p.B04
  14. ^ Benjamin Ladner v. Ben Wetmore, National Arbitration Forum, October 13, 2004
  15. ^ "Whistle-Blower Who Brought Down Ladner at American U. Is Unmasked", Chronicle of Higher Education, May 1, 2006
  16. ^ "Ladner's $3.75 Million Deal Severs Ties to American U.", Washington Post, October 25, 2005
  17. ^ Washington Post, "AU: President Ousted, Two Board Members Resign", October 14, 2005
  18. ^[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Washingtonian, Ben Ladner's Years of Living Lavishly, Harry Jaffe, April 1, 2006

External links[edit]

Bylined articles[edit]



Preceded by
Joseph Duffey
President, American University
Succeeded by
Cornelius M. Kerwin