Forsee resigns as UM System president

Curators say the search for the university's 23rd president begins immediately.

At a special UM System Board of Curators meeting Friday, Gary Forsee announced his decision to step down as president of the system, effective immediately.

Forsee took a leave of absence from the system in early December to spend more time with his wife, Sherry, as she battles cancer. His decision to leave the UM System permanently is for this same reason.

“After a long working career, LOTS of moves and working regularly from multiple locations, it is clearly time for us to get Sherry’s next six months of treatment completed and to focus on our family and great friends,” Forsee said in an e-mail to students, faculty and staff Friday.

UM System General Counsel Steve Owens has been fulfilling Forsee’s duties since his leave and will now assume the role of interim president. He said he does not intend to run for the permanent position.

He expressed his intent to continue to pursue Forsee’s iniatives as he makes decisions, such as the possible, and likely, tuition increases.

“Gary did not need to take the job three years ago, but he took it for the right reasons, and he tackled it with vengeance,” Owens said.

Quickly following the announcement, “Gary Forsee” became a trending topic on Twitter, with numerous users commending his work and wishing the best for his wife.

“Gary Forsee was a tremendous asset to the UM System and his leadership will be missed,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. tweeted. “His family will certainly be in our prayers.”

Board of Curators chairman Warren Erdman said he learned of Forsee’s decision Monday and was initially a little taken aback. Erdman said he is neighbors with the Forsees, and will see that they are made available for any consultation needed.

“You cannot remove Gary and Sherry Forsee from the University of Missouri,” Erdman said of the couple’s commitment to the UM System. “Having said that, he is not an official part of the university anymore.”

Forsee echoed this sentiment.

“While our priority going forward will be our family and Sherry’s full recovery, you can count on our continued full support for this great public research institution,” Forsee said. “The University President's role is a statewide, ‘24X7’ commitment to support the teaching, research, service and economic development mission of our four campuses. This is a role both Sherry and I have taken on, and with passion.”

The search committee had not discussed any procedures Friday. Erdman said this would be discussed at the Jan. 26 meeting at MU. He was reluctant to place a deadline on the final decision.

“It would be my intent that we protect the confidentiality of candidates to express their interest,” Erdman said. “But at the same token, this is a big decision that affects the University of Missouri and the state of Missouri and it is one that I would intend to have an all-inclusive role for faculty and staff much as we did last time around.”

For this reason, Erdman said he envisions the creation of an advisory group.

“I do not intend to conduct the business of the search committee in a vacuum,” Erdman said.

As the search for the university's 23rd president begins, Erdman expressed his confidence in the system’s bright future.

“The state is so blessed to have this institution and I want everyone to know that we have every reason to be confident about the future,” Erdman said. “This is an outstanding institution with outstanding leadership and we will constantly move forward and find a new president. Our brightest days are ahead of us.”

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