Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Bob Sternberg ’72:
love & hate in Wyoming

As a Yale psychology professor for three decades, Bob Sternberg ’72 studied love and hate. This fall he seems to have tapped into both, resigning as the University of Wyoming's new president after less than five months on the job.

"It might not be the best fit for me," his resignation statement said, prompting "bursts of laughter" from those listening as the president of the board of trustees announced the end of the shortest tenure in the school's 110-year history.

Sternberg started the school year by announcing the resignations of Wyoming's provost and education dean. A flurry of other administrators quit in protest. Early last week, Sternberg told a sympathetic Caspar Star Tribune that “I am doing exactly what [the trustees] hired me to do.” Three days later, on November 14, he stepped down.

Although he's "an absolutely brilliant scientist," Sternberg "just managed to get tangled up in the University of Wyoming’s cultural immune response"—in other words, its institutional resistance to change—one blogger writes. Internal critics are less charitable, accusing Sternberg of creating a "climate of fear" and of "lying to his faculty" by pretending the provost stepped down voluntarily.

Sternberg tells Inside Higher Ed that he simply couldn't sell his vision for the University of Wyoming: “I told people many times that we could be the No. 1 land-grant institution. A surprising number of people said they didn't believe me."

In 1994, then-Professor Sternberg explained to the Yale Alumni Magazine his theory of love as narrative.

“You have to know your own story,” he said, “and it has to mesh with your partner’s story.”

Filed under Bob Sternberg, psychology, University of Wyoming
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