UPDATE: Steve Owens to lead MU as interim chancellor

Monday, October 28, 2013 | 5:59 p.m. CDT; updated 12:03 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 29, 2013

COLUMBIA — Despite an accelerated search, MU won't have a new chancellor immediately after current Chancellor Brady Deaton retires Nov. 15.

Steve Owens, University of Missouri System general counsel, will serve as interim chancellor until Deaton's successor is ready to start, according to a news release issued Monday by UM System President Tim Wolfe. Owens served as interim UM System president from 2011-12.

Wolfe also named Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton as transition executive.

The appointments have been approved by the UM System Board of Curators and are effective Nov. 15. Neither Owens nor Middleton is a candidate for the permanent chancellor position.

Deaton announced June 12 that he planned to retire on Nov. 15, and an 18-member committee has been conducting a confidential search for his replacement since July. Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, a California-based search company, has been handling the chancellor search, which is closed, meaning that the details are not available to the public.

In July, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University, all Association of American Universities members as is MU, were also all looking to fill their top leadership spots. MU faculty members said the UM System conducted an accelerated search to compete with these universities, according to previous Missourian reporting.

"A reason for this rapid search is to try and get an edge on these other institutions," former Faculty Council Chairman Harry Tyrer said in July. "It's better for us to act fast than to act slowly if we're going to get a really top-notch individual."

John Fougere, spokesman for the UM System, said Monday that the search committee is still operating on schedule to name a new chancellor "over the next few weeks."

Fougere said an interim chancellor was named to help maintain MU's momentum in the transition time between administrators. Because of the nature of a nationwide search, the new chancellor could be from anywhere in the U.S. and would need time to finish his or her affairs and move to MU, he said.

Even if the new chancellor is named before Nov. 15, Fougere said there could be a "significant time gap" between the time Deaton departs and when the new chancellor arrives.

"It is not out of the realm of possibilities that it could take a number of weeks or even a month," Fougere said.

Tyrer, who initially said he hoped the accelerated search would eliminate the need for an interim chancellor, said Monday that Owens' appointment was good news.

"It is always better to have a permanent chancellor rather than an interim, but an interim chancellor is better than none," Tyrer said.

Fougere said the team approach of combining Owens, who has served as interim president, and Middleton, who has vast experience at MU, will provide continuity on campus.

Phillip Hoskins will replace Owens as acting general counsel until Owens can reclaim his position.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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