Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
The president and CEO of the University of New Mexico Foundation on Thursday announced his plans to retire after more than eight years on the job – something he says is not related to a recent search of the foundation’s headquarters by special agents from the state Attorney General’s Office.
Henry Nemcik, who joined the foundation in 2010, said the announcement was on his terms and that nobody – including UNM President Garnett Stokes or the foundation’s board of trustees – asked him to publicly declare his plans now.
In fact, Nemcik will remain at the foundation’s helm until his successor is in place. The foundation says it aims to have a new leader start in July.
The foundation – a private not-for-profit that exists solely to support the state’s largest public institution – has had a particularly turbulent few months.
On Sept. 5, special agents from Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office served a search warrant on the foundation’s headquarters and seized several boxes of files and other materials. They sought documents related to an anonymous $25,000 donation made last year to repay the university for losses sustained during an Athletics Department fundraising trip to Scotland. Emails from former Athletics Director Paul Krebs show he coordinated the delivery of the anonymous letter tied to the donation.
In May, a district judge ruled against the foundation in a public records lawsuit. The foundation is appealing.
In June, Steve Chavez – a high-profile donor whose former company, WisePies Pizza & Salad, once held naming rights to the Pit arena – publicly criticized the foundation for a lack of transparency.
And this week, Nemcik and UNM Board of Regents President Rob Doughty had a tense public exchange over Athletics Department fundraising strategy.
The retirement announcement released by the foundation did not address any of that. It instead lauded the foundation’s financial performance under Nemcik, noting it raised an average of $88 million in cash and pledges annually during his tenure and that he personally raised more than $30 million in gifts.
“For nearly a decade, Henry has been instrumental in transforming the UNM Foundation into the high-performing, top-tier organization that it is today,” Laurie Moye, chairwoman of the UNM Foundation board of trustees, said in a release.
Stokes said in the release that Nemcik has “helped create a strong foundation that will be critical to the future success of UNM and the community we serve.”
The Journal requested an interview with Nemcik on Thursday but was told by a spokeswoman to submit questions by email.
Nemcik said in his written response that he intended to retire last year but UNM’s then-president, Chaouki Abdallah, and the foundation’s board of trustees asked him to remain during UNM’s own leadership transition.
UNM’s regents named Stokes president in November, though she did not start until March 1.
Stokes will serve on the search committee for the foundation’s next CEO. Other members include Regents Vice President Marron Lee, several members of the UNM Foundation board of trustees, including Moye and Journal publisher Bill Lang.
Nemcik called Thursday “the most appropriate time” to publicize his retirement plans.
“Last week’s activities had nothing to do with my announcement and no one asked me to make the announcement at this time,” he wrote. “I have been planning for months on announcing my retirement this fall. As you know, there is a great deal of planning to conduct a search for a position at this level. Many of our staff, donors, board members and University leaders have known about my retirement for some time, but I wanted the search committee to be in place and I wanted the opportunity to tell the Foundation staff about my retirement personally before the public announcement.
“The search committee met for the first time yesterday and we held our quarterly all staff meeting yesterday as well. With those pieces in place, today was the most appropriate time to make the announcement official.”
Nemcik’s total compensation – including base salary, bonuses, deferred compensation and nontaxable benefits – was $451,158, according to the foundation’s 2016 tax filing, the most recent year publicly available.