SPRINGFIELD — Missouri State University's president will step down after about a year on the job and become a professor in the school's college of business administration, university officials announced Monday.
James Cofer was named president in May 2010 and began his duties that August. Cofer plans to spend the next year sharpening his teaching and research skills and was to return to the classroom in fall 2012.
Cofer said he wanted to spend more time with students. He is to be paid $165,000 per year, which is 60 percent of his current salary.
"I realized as I reviewed our year that I had not personally connected to, listened to and helped students in a meaningful way," he said. "I was not connected the way I wanted with the students on campus. I also realized that the rigor of my schedule and all the demands on me as president would not allow me to change that result."
Cofer said the university had opened its budgeting process, balanced its spending plan without cuts to academic departments and completed a long-term plan.
Before coming to Missouri State in Springfield, Cofer spent more than eight years as the president of the University of Louisiana-Monroe. The announcement about his changing role came after the university's governing board met Sunday. The board said it had accepted Cofer's proposal to leave the presidency and join the faculty during that meeting.
The Springfield News-Leader reported that Cofer said his relationship with the board had been cordial. He said an annual review had helped him reflect on his decision.
University officials said general counsel Clif Smart would serve as the school's interim president and immediately begin overseeing the daily operations of the university. Smart, who has been the school's general counsel since December 2007, said his goal is to improve the campus each day.
Missouri State University or Smart can end his job as president with 30 days' notice. Smart will be paid $180,000.
Smart chose Frank Einhellig on Monday to serve as the interim provost. The News-Leader reported that Einhellig was the long-time dean of the graduate college before he was reassigned in late March, which led to controversy among the school's faculty members.