The Maneater

Appointment of interim chancellor signifies preparations for transitional leadership period

The appointments will allow the university to maintain stability in the transitional period.

When Chancellor Brady Deaton steps down Nov. 15, his position will not be left unguarded for long.

Before the new chancellor takes office, Deaton will be temporarily succeeded by UM System General Counsel Steve Owens.

The Board of Curators appointed Owens to the interim chancellor position Oct. 23. His term begins on Deaton’s final day.

Although Owens is not a candidate for the permanent position, UM System spokesman John Fougere said Owens has unique qualifications that include comprehensive knowledge of MU.

“His past experience of being a former interim president of the University of Missouri System … makes him uniquely qualified to serve in a similar interim capacity at MU,” Fougere said in an email.

Owens bridged the gap between former UM System President Gary Forsee’s term and that of current President Tim Wolfe, an experience that Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton said suited Owens to the interim chancellor position.

“He has a very good sense of that interim role,” Middleton said. “We are working as a team to get the campus through this process.”

Middleton, who has been deputy chancellor since 1998, was also given an additional role as transition executive during the time between Deaton’s retirement and the date of the new chancellor’s inauguration.

The transition executive role entails being a point person to convey information to the new chancellor when he or she takes office, Middleton said.

“There is an urgent need to inform the new person of the lay of the land, the issues that are currently on the table, the activities that are currently in the works,” Middleton said. “(The responsibility of transition executive) is to coordinate communication between the provost and the other vice chancellors and the incoming chancellor.”

Middleton said he is developing briefing books to give the chancellor succinct statements of important issues he or she will face upon arriving on campus.

The books will be about the information that the chancellor will need to know about the university’s operations and vision, he said.

“We have a real serious need to ensure that the person hits the ground running … so we can continue the progress we’ve made over the last several years,” Middleton said. “Once that new chancellor is named, I will have to communicate with the new person and figure out, in addition to what we want them to know, what he or she wants to know.”

Deaton will also be a part of the briefing process and go over what he feels the new chancellor needs to know, Middleton said.

Fougere said Middleton and Owens will allow the university to maintain stability in the transitional period.

“Utilizing the team approach of Steve Owens as interim chancellor and Mike Middleton as deputy chancellor and transition executive allows us to maintain the crucial continuity of leadership at the university in the interim period between permanent chancellors,” Fougere said.

Middleton said he and Owens work well together but will have to ensure they do not overstep their boundaries.

“The real question is because this is a dynamic and complex organization, there are going to be questions about what do we need to be doing in this interim period,” Middleton said. “We don’t want to make decisions that would be best left for the new chancellor…. But by the same token, there are things that have to be done. Mr. Owens and I will have to sort out what we need to be deciding in moving forward and what we need to be leaving for the new person to work with.”

The interim positions will end on the first day in office for the permanent chancellor, a date currently unknown.

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