Morton told to ‘accelerate’ UMKC as interim chancellor

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 | 4:22 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Leo Morton knows business and who's who in Kansas City, and he plans to put his knowledge to work as interim chancellor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Among the things he would like to work on, Morton said, are boosting university efforts to raise millions of dollars to match donations for capital projects and helping establish a university foundation.

Morton, a former chief administrative officer at Aquila Inc., began the temporary job at the university on Friday, four weeks after Chancellor Guy Bailey announced he was leaving Kansas City to be president of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee, who appointed Morton, told Morton he expected him to do more than just baby-sit the university.

"I want Leo not to just maintain, but to accelerate the university," Forsee said.

To step in as interim chancellor, Morton had to relinquish the volunteer position he has held for two years at UMKC as chairman of the board of trustees, a university advisory board.

"I know the university," Morton said. "I've been around the table when a lot of strategies were put together. I've worked with the deans, and with the board of trustees. I'm not starting from scratch, and I'm not going to be there permanently."

Morton, 63, has had a long career in business and engineering, having worked 14 years as an executive for Aquila and before that for Western Electric and AT&T. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Morton has also done stints with General Motors and Corning Glass.

Bailey, who served as chancellor for nearly three years, said that what is required of a campus leader is "extensive understanding of education and of business - how to maximize revenues and minimize your administrative costs. ... Leo has that, and he knows people."

Morton has said he is not interested in leading UMKC long-term.

"I believe that UMKC needs to hire a top-flight chancellor who has an academic background," he said.

Meanwhile, he said, he believes it is possible to use his leadership and business skills, and his knack for "bringing people together," to keep the university moving forward.

He wants to continue the university's efforts to increase enrollment; maintain the relationship Bailey built between the university and the community; and make sure progress continues on several major construction projects, including new student residences and expansion of the Miller Nichols library.

A university foundation, an idea that has been tossed around among the university's trustees for some time, would operate separately from the university while raising money for the campus. Such a structure change would take the approval of the UM System Board of Curators.

Morton figures he has about six months to accomplish something at UMKC before a new chancellor is hired. Forsee said he wants the chancellor position filled permanently by January.

"It is going take several factions in the community - business, philanthropic, faculty, staff, students and neighbors working together," Morton said. "My whole thing is keep them working together. I don't want to spend time mending fences."


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