The University of the District of Columbia, in the midst of leadership turnover, has named a veteran administrator to be the interim replacement for a president it fired in December.

James Earl Lyons Sr. will take over at UDC on March 20, the Board of Trustees announced. Board Chairwoman Elaine Crider said Lyons has “an impressive academic history” as past president of three universities: Bowie State in Maryland, Jackson State in Mississippi and California State-Dominguez Hills.

Lyons also was secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission from 2007 to 2010.

The board fired UDC President Allen Sessoms without cause in December, then retained psychology professor Rachel Petty to run the city’s struggling public university as chief operating officer until an interim president could be named.

There has been significant debate lately about UDC’s future. The 5,490-student university faces pressure from city officials to cut costs. In late January, UDC announced it would cut nearly 100 faculty and staff positions in an effort to save $8.5 million a year, a move that led to dozens of layoffs.