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University of Colorado history professor Tom Zeiler will serve as the interim faculty director of the Center of the American West, the university announced Wednesday.

Tom Zeiler, a history professor at the University of Colorado, will serve as interim faculty director of the Center of the American West. (University of Colorado photo)

Zeiler fills the vacancy left by the dismissal of Patty Limerick, who had led the center since it was founded nearly 37 years ago. Glen Krutz, the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, fired Limerick on Sept. 23, an act that surprised the center’s executive committee and caused them to resign

An audit of the Center of the American West, obtained by The Colorado Sun using an open-records request, indicated Limerick violated ethical rules addressing “prudence and integrity in the management of university resources.” The report, which was distributed to top university officials a week after Limerick was fired, indicated that she used center staff for personal business, but did not suggest that she should be dismissed. 

“This transition is the result of a lengthy period of addressing repeat complaints from center employees regarding leadership of the center,” university spokesman Steve Hurlbert said in a statement. “Dean Glen Krutz considered Professor Limerick’s perspective in the process, but did not see a pathway to resolve outstanding issues surrounding her role as director.”

The center’s faculty director is an employee-at-will position, according to Hurlbert. Limerick remains a full-tenured professor at CU.

Zeiler is the director of CU Boulder’s international affairs program and former chair of the history department. He will assume the position immediately. A statement from the College of Arts and Sciences reiterated the university’s commitment to the Center of the American West and “its continued contributions to national thought and discourse regarding the American West and our shared history.”

Delaney Nelson is The Colorado Sun's 2022 Medill School of Journalism Fellow.