Curators at the University of Missouri met behind closed doors Friday to discuss the selection of the next president for the four-campus system, but they emerged with no official statement about whether any decisions were made.
Pamela Henrickson, who chairs the board, would only say following the four-hour meeting that curators are excited about the candidates and that they were making great progress. Her comments were in a statement from John Fougere, a spokesman for the curators.
Fougere said the search “is at the point of considering finalists, and we remain very confident that we will meet our stated goal of having the new president announced before the end of the calendar year.”
A person close to the presidential selection process told The Star that a preferred candidate for system president could be selected this week. But that it could be another week before a contract agreement is reached and the board is ready to announce its choice.
The Star was told that two weeks ago, the 16-member university Presidential Search Committee, made up of curators, alumni, two faculty members, a staff member and two students, selected three final candidates from a preferred list of five.
Those choices were made after two days of closed-door meetings at the Kansas City Airport Marriott hotel. The final three names are said to have been passed to curators with information about why the search committee liked each one. But no recommendation of preference was given to curators.
According to the university’s timeline for the selection, curators were expected to receive a list of choice candidates from the search committee the week of Oct. 2.
Since the process began in February, no information has been released about the professional background of candidates who’ve been interviewed or how many were being considered.
But reports have surfaced that Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis may be among the three finalists for the Missouri position.
Ohio University spokeswoman Carly Glick said, “We have no comment,” when asked whether McDavis is a finalist for the Missouri presidency. No other names have surfaced.
McDavis received his doctorate in counselor education with a minor in higher education administration at the University of Toledo in 1974, and he did his undergraduate studies at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.
He began his career in higher education that year at Siena Heights College, a Catholic school in Adrian, Mich. Later, McDavis served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond from 1999 until 2004, when he became the first black president at Ohio University.
In March, McDavis announced that he would step down as president when his contract expires on June 30, 2017.
In his final state of the university address, McDavis reflected on thoughts he had when he’d taken that post 12 years earlier. He said, “When you are a new president, you want to push your university community out of its comfort zone a little — or, as I look back now on the goals I set, a lot.”
One of his goals set the day he took the helm at Ohio University was to increase diversity among the student body and faculty.
Under his leadership, the university created its first vice provost for diversity and inclusion position and implemented the Ohio University Diversity Initiative to enhance minority and women faculty and staff recruitment. He also spearheaded the creation of the Urban and Appalachian Scholarship Programs, which university officials said led to a “notable increase” in the number of African-American, minority and international students on campus.
Such accomplishments might be significant for Missouri curators as they consider who should lead the four-campus system going forward. Improving diversity, equity and inclusion was made a priority after racially charged protests on the Mizzou campus last year pointed to that need.
The new president will replace Tim Wolfe, who resigned last November under mounting pressure from faculty and students who staged a series of protests over racial issues on the Columbia campus. The protests focused a national spotlight on MU and set off similar racially motivated protests on campuses across the country.
Michael Middleton, who is African-American, has been serving as interim president of the UM System since November. He was called out of retirement after the Columbia campus upheaval to take the post until a new president could be found.