Curators support barring voting student curator

Gov. Jay Nixon appointed three new curators in the past week.

Gov. Jay Nixon made nominations to fill three of the four soon-to-be-vacant spots on the UM System Board of Curators this week, but the board supported an amendment Thursday that would eliminate the possibility of a voting student curator filling the fourth spot.

Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, filed House Bill 174 in light of Missouri’s lost congressional district. Thomson’s bill would permit “at least one but not more than two” curators from “each congressional district.” Previously, the bill allowed one person from each congressional district to be appointed by Nixon to serve on the board.

“It seems to me that this is very consistent with the position the board has taken previously,” UM System Board of Curators Chairman Warren Erdman said.

The board also said it believes its composition should remain the same, with each curator representing the public. This means that no curator should reflect any specific constituency group, such as students, faculty, staff, alumni or retirees. Consequently, the debate over whether the ninth curator spot will be filled by a student is put to rest.

The three new members nominated to the Board of Curators, the university's executive board, thanked Nixon for their selections this week but said they had no specific agendas yet for their time as curators.

On Tuesday, Nixon nominated St. Louis businessman David Steward to replace outgoing Curator David Wasinger.

Steward’s term would end Jan. 1, 2017, and the nomination is subject to confirmation by the Missouri State Senate.

"David Steward is one of this country's leading entrepreneurs and will bring a background of tremendous business experience and success to the Board of Curators," Nixon said in a news release. "I am pleased to nominate him to serve on the board of one of the nation's pre-eminent university systems, as it continues to meet the challenge of providing an affordable, first-class higher education to its students."

Steward, a republican, is CEO of World Wide Technology, a company that provides technology products, services and supply chain solutions to customers around the world. WWT, founded in 1990, was ranked no. 201 in Forbes’ list of America's largest private companies.

On Wednesday, Nixon announced his nomination to replace outgoing Curator John Carnahan, Cassville attorney David Cupps. "I have a great love for the University," Cupps said. "I think being a part of the University of Missouri community gives you a sense of how important it is to the State of Missouri."

Cupps said he has no plans for once he assumes his new position.

"I really don't have an agenda," he said. "I just hope to do what I can."

Cupps works at the law firm of Ellis, Cupps and Cole. If confirmed by the Missouri Senate, Cupps will represent the Seventh Congressional District. His term would end Jan. 1, 2017.

"I'm just a little overwhelmed right now," Cupps said. "I'm very grateful for the confidence the governor has in appointing me to this position. I hope to live up to that confidence."

Later Wednesday, Nixon announced the nomination of Columbia attorney Craig Van Matre to serve out the remainder of retired Curator Bo Fraser’s term.

Van Matre, who has resided in Columbia since 1975, will represent the 9th Congressional District, and will remain on the board until Jan. 1, 2013. He is the president of the law firm of Van Matre, Harrison, Hollis, Pitzer and Taylor.

So far, Van Matre said he has only made one goal for once he’s on board – to not make any mistakes.

“When the governor says he wants to appoint you to this position, you just can’t turn him down,” Van Matre said.

One of the major jobs the Board of Curators will have is finding a president.

“Finding someone to do his job is obviously very important,” Van Matre said. “The university is the most important enterprise here. It’s important not only from a statewide standpoint but to the city of Columbia.”

Once he assumes his position on the Board of Curators, Van Matre will step down from his role as a member of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, which he has held since 2010.

Van Matre said he does not plan on making any major changes to the UM system once he assumes the new role.

“The University of Missouri is an enormous undertaking,” he said. “There’s a lot of complexity to it and there’s a lot to learn before I try to make any changes.”

He said he wants to spend the first few months learning how the system works, instead.

“There are people here who have much more experience. It’d be totally presumptuous to say I have the right to make changes at this point in time. I guess that’s why they call it the ‘Show Me’ state.”

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