COLUMBIA — As he stood in the Jesse Hall rotunda at MU on Wednesday to announce his retirement, Brady Deaton invoked the name of Mark Twain who, he said, stood in that very spot in 1902 and had a "comfortable feeling" as he bade farewell to colleagues and friends.
Twain was accepting an honorary degree from the university, according to the State Historical Society of Missouri.
Deaton was announcing that he will leave the university after more than 30 years in higher education.
"Things have never looked better," he said with a tremble in his voice. His wife, Anne, sat in the front row fighting back tears.
Deaton will continue to serve as chancellor emeritus with a focus on international development. His retirement is effective Nov. 15. He was MU's 21st chancellor, serving in the role since Oct. 4, 2004.
MU faculty and staff filled the rotunda for the announcement. Anne Deaton, who has been active in the MU community, hugged friends and colleagues before her husband came out to speak.
The news conference began with a moment of silence in honor of longtime Columbia educator Eliot Battle, who died Tuesday night, and Roger Mitchell, a plant science professor emeritus who died June 5.
Deaton has been at MU since 1989, where he began as a professor and chair in the Agricultural Economics Department. He moved to the administration side of MU in 1993, when he was appointed chief of staff in the Office of the Chancellor. In January of 1998, he was appointed interim provost and was officially named provost permanently in October of that year. He served in that role until he was named chancellor in 2004.
During his nine years as chancellor, MU grew rapidly. Enrollment increased by 28.7 percent, and 21 new buildings were opened. Deaton was also a central figure in MU's transition to the Southeastern Conference in 2011.
"Selfishly, I'm sad he'll be stepping down," UM Systems President Tim Wolfe said at Wednesday's announcement. "Chancellor Deaton was a gracious adviser and greater friend."
Wolfe said finding a worthy successor would be his top priority. "Finding someone of Deaton's stature and strengths will not be easy," he said.
Deaton talked about his proudest accomplishments during his time as chancellor, which included creating a team of outstanding faculty and finding strong donor support through record-breaking fundraisers.
"I have a lot of things to think about that are very exciting," Deaton said. "Big ideas shall we say."
Deaton said he was looking forward to having more family time and seeing his seven grandchildren more often. He brought his wife, Anne, onto the stage and hugged and kissed her. He told the crowd they had celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary.
Deaton said he and wife will continue to live in Columbia.
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