COLUMBIA — As the UM System Board of Curators concluded its special meeting Monday, Chairwoman Judith Haggard said she had a surprise item to add to the agenda: the announcement of Curator Bo Fraser's resignation, effective with the new year.
"I've been wrestling with this decision for a long time," Fraser said in an interview following the announcement. "But I think it's the right decision."
The curator from Columbia has been a member of the board since 2007 and played a part in hiring UM System President Gary Forsee that year. He also served as the board's chairman in 2009.
Fraser, 68, said he has become increasingly unable to devote the necessary time to his curator duties because of the time he spends in his Florida home with his wife. He said he spent seven months in Florida this year.
"We're spending a lot of time out of state, and I'm not able to be involved in a lot of things around campus that I believe the curators should be there for," he said.
Although Fraser said hiring Forsee was his most important pride point, he has one regret: the board’s "inability to do what needs to be done with faculty salaries."
Faculty salaries continually rank toward the bottom in a list of the school's peers. Fraser worked in 2007 to at least elevate the rank to the middle of the list, but the board couldn't secure the funding to do that, he said.
In leaving the board, Fraser joins three other curators whose terms expire at the end of the calendar year. That will leave a relatively inexperienced governing board for the UM System, as only two curators will have served more than one two-year term.
Amid a backdrop of certain cuts to higher education and an ongoing discussion about how to revamp the system's retirement benefits, there likely will have to be a fast learning curve, which Forsee acknowledged at a post-meeting news conference.
"Curators build up their experience with experience over time," he said. "So, without question when a new class comes in, it takes time for them to get up to speed."
But Forsee said the board will be fine, adding: "We always are. We have a very thorough orientation process."
The question of who will succeed Fraser is out of the university's hands. Gov. Jay Nixon is responsible for appointing new curators, but Fraser hopes the governor will choose from the Columbia area because of Boone County's relationship with MU.
"I hope the governor can find someone that has some familiarity with the university so they can be productive early," Fraser said.