When Ursinus College President Bobby Fong died unexpectedly in September 2014, the college’s board unanimously appointed dean Terry Winegar to lead the school in Montgomery County.
At the time, Ursinus said it recognized Winegar’s “outstanding contributions.”
He “will continue to serve the college in a distinguished and exemplary manner,” the board of trustees chairman Alan Novak said in a press release.
Jump ahead to April of this year, months after Ursinus hired a permanent new president, when school officials told students that Winegar left his prior position as dean.
But in a lawsuit filed in federal court and scheduled for trial next year, Winegar claims his departure was anything but voluntary. Rather, Ursinus fired him because he was too old, alleged the 62-year-old Winegar. He said that’s part of a pattern at Ursinus — canning employees heading toward retirement age.
Ursinus President Brock Blomberg “was motivated by his desire to have a person who is substantially younger report to him,” according to the suit, which names Ursinus and Blomberg as defendants.
April Kontostathis, who is 52, assumed the post of dean.
In addition, Winegar said, by terminating him from his position as dean, Ursinus breached a contract.
A letter from May 2015, written by board chair Novak, listed what Winegar’s contract as dean included: $325,000 annual salary; benefits; and a 2009 Toyota Avalon. The contract, according to the letter, was supposed to continue until June 2019. But Winegar claims the school broke that promise when Blomberg was hired and kicked him out of his leadership position.
Winegar said Ursinus owes him $1 million in severance pay and $33,000 in benefits. The tenured professor of psychology is currently on paid leave, and his current salary was not disclosed in the suit.
In a response filing, Ursinus denied Winegar’s allegations, but attorneys for the school have not yet offered an elaborate defense.
The lawsuit, filed by Blue Bell attorney Andrew Abramson, claims other employees, including the vice president of enrollment, have also been fired because of their age.
Winegar is asking that Ursinus pay him at least $1.5 million plus attorneys’ fees and other court-related costs.
Neither attorney Abramson nor officials from Ursinus returned requests for comment.