Robert L. Caslen

Robert L. Caslen
Bob Caslen (cropped).jpg
29th President of the University of South Carolina
Assumed office
August 1, 2019
Preceded byHarris Pastides
Personal details
Born (1953-11-30) November 30, 1953 (age 66)
Connecticut, United States
Alma materUnited States Military Academy (BS)
Long Island University (MBA)
Kansas State University (Master of Science)
Long Island University (Honorary PhD)
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Defense Superior Service Medal (2)
Legion of Merit (5)
Bronze Star Medal (3)
WebsiteOffice of the President
Military service
AllegianceUnited States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1975–2018
RankLieutenant General
CommandsUnited States Military Academy
25th Infantry Division
Battles/warsGulf War
Operation Uphold Democracy
War in Afghanistan
Iraq War

Robert Louis Caslen Jr. (born November 30, 1953) is the 29th and current President of the University of South Carolina. He is a retired United States Army officer who served as the 59th superintendent of West Point from 2013 until 2018.[1] Between January and May of 2019, Caslen was Senior Counsel to the President and Interim Chief Financial Officer at the University of Central Florida.[2] On July 19, 2019, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina elected him as the school's 29th President, a position he assumed on August 1, 2019.[3] Caslen now serves as HigherEchelon's Special Advisor on Executive Leadership and Character Development.[4]

Early life[edit]

Caslen was born in Connecticut,[5] and grew up in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. In 1971 he graduated from North Country Union High School in Newport, Vermont.[6] He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1975 and played center for the Army Black Knights football team. He also earned a master's degree in business administration from Long Island University, and in 1989 he received a Master of Science degree in industrial engineering from Kansas State University.[7][8] Caslen also received a honorary doctorate from Long Island University.[9]

Military career[edit]

During Operation Desert Storm, Caslen served as executive officer of the 2nd Battalion, 187th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).[7]

Caslen served as brigade operations officer, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); J-3 in Honduras for Joint Task Force Bravo in 1998; executive officer to the deputy commander in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy in 1994–1995; commander of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division (Light); senior brigade C2 observer/controller, Operations Group, Joint Readiness Training Center; chief of staff of the 101st Airborne Division; and commander of the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (1999).[7]

Caslen was at the Pentagon during the September 11 attacks. Following the attack, he re-entered the Pentagon, helping search for wounded and working on reversing the air conditioning system in order to remove smoke from the building.[7] Caslen was also chief of staff of the 10th Mountain Division (Light) (2003) at Fort Drum; assistant division commander (Maneuver) of the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) (2004); deputy director for the War on Terrorism, J-5, the Joint Staff (2005 – June 2006); director of the Joint Staff's Detainee Affairs Division and commandant of cadets for the Military Academy at West Point, a post he left in May 2008. Caslen was chief of staff for the Combined Joint Task Force 180 in Afghanistan from May through September 2002.[10] He was a commander of Operation Champion Sword.

According to a report by the Office of Inspector General, Caslen, fellow Army General Vincent K. Brooks and Air Force generals Peter U. Sutton and Jack J. Catton Jr "violated the ethical guidelines of the military that forbid officers to promote private organizations" when they appeared in a video for an evangelical organization Christian Embassy.[11] At the time he was Commandant of Cadets at West Point. In a letter, he said he would be more vigilant about such improprieties going forward.[12]

From May 2008 to December 2009, Caslen served as commander of the 25th Infantry Division. In October, he returned from a tour with the division in the Iraq War. Prior to this, he had served two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in the Gulf War.[13] In December 2009, Caslen was nominated to be a lieutenant general in conjunction with his nomination to be Commandant of the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth which took effect in March 2010. In July 2011, Caslen was nominated to be chief of Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.[14]

Caslen was appointed as Superintendent of the United States Military Academy on July 17, 2013. After five years of service, in April 2018 it was announced that Caslen would retire later in the year.[15] In July, the army announced Lieutenant General Darryl A. Williams as Caslen's successor.[16] The ceremonial relinquishing of command took place on June 22, 2018.[17]

Over the course of his military career, Caslen received numerous civilian and military awards, including Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal, German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Lifetime of Service Award from the American Red Cross, and NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award, amongst others.[18]

Following his retirement from West Point, Caslen was in January 2019 appointed as chief accountability officer at the University of Central Florida to oversee the reformation of the finance and administration operations, a position from which he resigned in May.

University of South Carolina Presidency[edit]

On July 19, 2019, Caslen was selected as the 29th President of the University of South Carolina. He was initially among a group of four finalists for the position. While Caslen was reported to be the front-runner,[19] there was significant controversy about his nomination, given that he does not possess an earned doctorate and because of alleged comments made during open campus sessions regarding binge drinking and sexual assault; [20] among faculty and students, 82% opposed Caslen's candidacy.[21] It was later discovered by the Charleston Post and Courier that Mr. Caslen's name was added to the finalist list only after the intervention of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees as Caslen was not originally a finalist or an agreed upon alternate nominated by the presidential search committee[22]. On April 26, the university Board of Trustees decided to reopen the search. However, it was revealed on July 8, that South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster was urging members of the Board to meet by the end of the week to vote on Caslen's candidacy for President.[23] This caused further controversy, with the university's faculty senate unanimously passing motions to formally criticize the lack of transparency in the search process and to issue a vote of no confidence in Caslen to lead the university.[24]. Several alumni and donors also opposed the intervention of the governor in the presidential search; notably businesswoman Darla Moore, writing as "the largest donor to the university and the namesake of one of the largest schools," urged the board to abide by the April 26 decision to continue the search.[25] and the SACS Commission on Colleges opening an inquiry into the search to determine if there was undue outside influence.[26] One trustee, Egerton Burroughs, believed that the opposition to Caslen was entirely political, stating, without evidence, "A lot of the people that are demonstrating are from out of town. I heard some of that Kamala Harris crowd is there … got this thing all tied into the Democratic primary," though Burroughs was unaware his comments were being broadcast.[27] Despite the opposition of faculty and students, on July 19, Caslen was elected as the 29th President of the University by the Board of Trustees by a vote of 11-8, with one member voting "present".[28]

Following his selection, Caslen stated that he recognized "the challenges the board addressed to get to this point" and expressed he would "listen to all of our students, faculty, staff, board members, and all our constituents."[29] On July 22, 2019, Caslen held a press conference to announce his desire to raise the profile of the university by boosting the school's rankings, improving diversity, bolstering research, and beating in-state rival Clemson University in more athletic competitions.[30] He also met with students, faculty, donors, and lawmakers, pledging to listen and learn.[31] Caslen formally took office as the 29th President of the University of South Carolina on August 1, 2019.[32] On October 7, the SACS Commission on Colleges announced that it had opened an official inquiry into Mr. Caslen's selection as university president, SACS notified the university that there was "evidence of a significant accreditation-related issue" and opened a formal investigation into whether or not there was undue external influence on the search.[33] Caslen himself acknowledging that the inquiry was legitimate and that trust between himself and the wider university community had been damaged.[34] Ultimately, the review of the process did not result in formal sanctions, though the university was placed on monitoring and will be subject to a site visit in 2020.[35] In tandem with the SACS inquriy, the South Carolina Senate formed a bi-partisan committee to review the presidential search, looking into how to improve the process for future searches rather than remove Caslen as incumbent, though at least one member, Katrina Shealy, proposed was to "listen to the issues" people had expressed with the search and then "move on" without any changes to improve the search process for the future.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Caslen is married to Michele (Shelly) Caslen (née Pastin) from Highland Falls, New York. They have three sons: Robert Caslen III, a firefighter; Jeffrey (Jeff) Caslen, a captain in the Army; and Nicholas (Nick) Caslen, an FBI special agent.[7]


  1. ^ "General Officer Announcements". News Release. US Department of Defense. Retrieved January 27, 2013. "Office of the Superintendent". Bio. US Military Academy. Retrieved August 6, 2013.
  2. ^ Robert L. Caslen Jr. University of South Carolina President-Elect. University of South Carolina. Retrieved July 27, 2019.
  3. ^ USC president-elect 'Bob' Caslen addresses his selection, challenges ahead and vision for University. WLTX, July 22, 2019.
  4. ^
  5. ^ West Point Alumni Foundation, inc; United States Military Academy. Association of Graduates (1991). Register of Graduates and Former Cadets of the United States Military Academy. Association of Graduates, USMA. ISSN 0090-2357. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  6. ^ "National Football Foundation Vermont Chapter Honors Finest From 2013 Football Season". National Football Foundation. Irving, TX. April 29, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e "News – Commander of Army Combined Arms Center: Who is Robert Caslen, Jr.?". AllGov. September 11, 2001. Retrieved November 25, 2010.
  8. ^ "College of Engineering Hall of Fame gained two new members". KansasStateUniversity. June 1, 2014. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  9. ^ Robert L. Caslen, Jr. Curriculum Vitae. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  10. ^ "Combined Arms Research Library Digital Library : Item Viewer". April 4, 2008. Retrieved November 25, 2010.
  11. ^ "Report Says Pentagon Erred In Allowing Christian Video – Church and State – September 2007". Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  12. ^ "Officers' Roles in Christian Video Are Called Ethics Breach". Washington Post. August 4, 2007. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  13. ^ "Caslen tapped to command Fort Leavenworth – Army Times – December 7, 2009". Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  14. ^ King, Will (March 5, 2010). "Combined Arms Center welcomes new commander". Fort Leavenworth Lamp. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
  15. ^ "USMA superintendent to retire". Mid-Hudson News. Middletown, NY. April 19, 2018.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  16. ^ "West Point gets 1st black superintendent in 216-year history". Army Times. Springfield, Virginia. Associated Press. July 1, 2018.
  17. ^ Nash, Noah (June 21, 2018). "After 43 years in the Army, West Point's beloved Supe Daddy retires". Army Times.
  18. ^ Robert L. Caslen, Jr Biography. Retrieved July 28, 2019.
  19. ^ USC reopens president search after campus backlash over former West Point leader. The Post and Courier, April 26, 2019.
  20. ^ Daprile, Lucas (April 26, 2019). "Amid protests, USC reopens search to replace Pastides, names interim president". The State. Retrieved July 19, 2019. WLTX (April 26, 2019). "Sudden USC president vote draws criticism, support". WLTX. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  21. ^ WLTX (April 26, 2019). "Sudden USC president vote draws criticism, support". WLTX. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  22. ^ Shain, Andy (August 16, 2019). "USC faculty chair: Caslen got help after not making semifinalist list for president". Charleston Post and Courier. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  23. ^ WLTX (April 26, 2019). "Sudden USC president vote draws criticism, support". WLTX. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  24. ^ Bland, David Travis (July 11, 2019). "USC faculty rebukes McMaster's role in search, expresses 'no confidence' in Caslen". The State. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  25. ^ WLTX (July 18, 2019). "USC donor Darla Moore asks for USC president search to restart". WLTX. Retrieved July 27, 2019.
  26. ^ Ardis, Susan (July 16, 2019). "USC accreditation could be at risk over president search". WLTX. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  27. ^ WLTX Staff (July 19, 2019). "USC board member makes statement on hot mic". WLTX. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  28. ^ Daprile, Lucas (July 19, 2019). "Despite opposition, USC board hires retired general Caslen as school's next president". The State. Retrieved July 20, 2009.
  29. ^ Robert L. Caslen Jr. University of South Carolina President-Elect. University of South Carolina. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  30. ^ Glantz, Tracy (July 23, 2019). "Incoming USC President Robert Caslen lays out his vision for the school's future". The Charlotte Observer.
  31. ^ Leonard, Joseph (July 22, 2019). "Robert Caslen pledges to listen to USC community as leader". The Daily Gamecock.
  32. ^ Dean, Rochelle (July 31, 2019). "UofSC welcomes new president as past leader retires". WOLO. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  33. ^ Welch, Rodney (October 16, 2019). "Bod and Weave: USC Faculty Open Up About the Controversial Hiring of a New President". Free Times (Charleston Post and Courier). Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  34. ^ Mock, Andrea (October 8, 2019). "USC president responds to controversy over his hiring". WLTX. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  35. ^ Daprile, Lucas (December 10, 2019). "USC's presidential search will not result in formal sanctions, school says". The State. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  36. ^ Scott, Tim (October 8, 2019). "New Senate committee looks to examine issues with USC presidential search". WOLO. Retrieved December 17, 2019.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
William B. Caldwell IV
Commandant of the United States Army Command and General Staff College
Succeeded by
David G. Perkins
Preceded by
David H. Huntoon
Superintendent of the United States Military Academy
Succeeded by
Darryl A. Williams