A day after accepting an offer to lead Washington State University, University of Missouri System President Elson Floyd said he doesn’t yet know when he will leave Missouri and stands ready to help curators make a smooth transition to his successor.
Calling UM “a place of uncompromised excellence,” an emotional Floyd spoke Thursday morning at a news conference in Reynolds Alumni Center. As he prepared to make his remarks, Floyd was approached by MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and the two men embraced.
Floyd said the decision to leave the UM System was due to a combination of factors, but was mostly because of his ties to the Pacific Northwest. Floyd was executive vice president at Eastern Washington University from 1990 to 1993, when he became executive director of the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Floyd said he probably would have never left Washington two years later if he hadn’t been recruited to return to his alma mater, the University of North Carolina, where he served as chief administrative and operating officer until 1998. Floyd was named UM System president in November 2002.
Curator Don Walsworth said curators had not discussed specifics about the process of choosing Floyd’s successor. The board is expected to meet with Floyd today during its regularly scheduled meeting, which began Thursday in Columbia. As for Floyd’s decision to leave, Walsworth called it “a sad day for the university.”
After the news conference, Curator Cheryl Walker read a statement expressing support for Floyd. She also questioned whether the curators could have done more to hold on to him.
Floyd said his only regrets while UM System president were that he may have tried to move too quickly on a few issues, specifically his effort to integrate Northwest Missouri State University into the UM System during his first months in office.
Despite having the support of Northwest President Dean Hubbard and the school’s regents, the General Assembly shot down the plan in 2003. Floyd said, given another opportunity, he would have waited until later in his tenure to bring Northwest into the system because he would have had more support from lawmakers.
Curators, who were caught off-guard by Wednesday’s news, are expected to name an interim president before choosing Floyd’s replacement.
State Rep. Ed Robb said Thursday that whether an interim president will have as much political muscle as Floyd during the upcoming legislative session depends on who is chosen. Realistically, Robb said, UM will not have a new president in place by the end of the legislative session, so the legislators will be dealing more with the chancellors of each campus. He said that lawmakers are going to take up higher education funding during the session — with or without Floyd — so an interim president shouldn’t have any adverse effect on that.
Curator Thomas Atkins said Floyd’s replacement must have many attributes because the position is a broad-ranging one. Atkins said a university president must deal with a wide variety of people, including alumni, lawmakers, faculty and staff.
“It’s an extremely big job,” Atkins said,
Floyd has consistently put all his energy into the position, Atkins said, and the next president must do the same.