Howard University President Sidney A. Ribeau abruptly stepped down Tuesday after months of internal debate over the management and financial health of one of the nation’s premier historically Black universities. Ribeau, in office for five years, announced his retirement “from our beloved institution” after a tense three-day Board of Trustees meeting at the Northwest Washington campus that ended Saturday. He said he would officially leave the presidency at the end of December.

His departure follows two developments last month that many Howard boosters found dispiriting: a drop for the university in a major national ranking, and a downgrade in its credit rating. It also came a year after enrollment at the university suddenly fell 5 percent.

Ribeau, 65, had just this summer signed a contract extension to serve through June 2015, but he said Tuesday that he was not forced out.

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