Deaton, curators speak out on search for next UM president

Five members of the public spoke at the forum.
Presidential Search Committee Chairman Warren Erdman listens to public feedback on the search for the university next president. The committee held a public forum Monday at the Reynolds Alumni Center.

About 50 people braved unexpected snow Monday to hear top university officials discuss the search for the next university president and to give some feedback of their own.

The public forum, held in the Reynolds Alumni Center, was the fifth meeting in a series of seven held across Missouri in an effort to gain public opinion on the UM System presidential search.

“Our objective today is to open it up and allow the members of the public to come forward and offer their input as we develop the qualifications for the 23rd president of the University of Missouri System,” Search Committee Chairman Warren Erdman said.

Erdman then detailed the importance of finding the perfect successor to former UM System President Gary Forsee, who resigned in January.

“The breadth and reach of the University of Missouri is very broad and very wide,” Erdman said. “It touches not only our four campuses but our entire economy. For that reason, the selection of the 23rd president of the University of Missouri will be a far-reaching and very important undertaking. We welcome the input of all the people of Missouri, and today, we’re inviting you in to share your thoughts on this matter.”

Chancellor Brady Deaton began by outlining the importance of the presidential position.

“Each chancellor of the campus has their own unique role to play within the four-campus System with each campus having its own somewhat distinct mission,” Deaton said. “The role of the president is to link the pieces together. You think of a string of pearls that you need to connect with the proper string that attaches them and makes them a functional whole that adds to the overall beauty of what a university is and serves the people in a very effective way.”

And with that, he opened the floor for public comment. Only five people utilized this opportunity, and MU alumnus John Clark began these comments by stressing his belief the president focuses the majority of his or her time “building a System.”

Monday’s forum was the fifth of seven public forums the search committee is holding to determine qualities the public finds important the next System president embodies.

“It’s not clear to me that more than two ounces of energy have really been spent on building a System,” Clark said. “We’ve managed to go along with the four campuses and so forth, but as a System, we haven’t. My guess is that unless the new president has that as his or her fundamental focus, the System will disintegrate in the next 10 years. There are massive political forces that have been pulling at the System for some time.”

Among the suggestions he offered moving the focus away from MU as the “flagship” campus and having multi-campus departments.

Only one student spoke at Monday’s forum.

“This is probably a pretty basic comment, but I would ask that the next president pay attention to the students and listen to their voices,” senior Paul Rolfe said. “Young people are going to be dealing with some even bigger problems in the future, so I think it could do a lot of mitigate those problems – to have responsible leadership. On our campus, Brady Deaton does a great job listening to voices, and I hope we could continue this with the next president of the UM System.”

Erdman responded to this comment saying that Forsee was very attentive to students’ needs, meeting with them upon his selection as president. He ensured Rolfe his concerns will be asked of potential presidential candidates.

All of the comments from the meeting were recorded and will be submitted to the presidential search committee at its meeting next week in Rolla. At that meeting, the committee will select the final qualifications for the position and post it on the website. The public will then be able to submit nominations for the position.

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