UM's first choice for system president turns down offer

Saturday, June 2, 2007 | 1:43 p.m. CDT; updated 12:31 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The search goes on.

The UM System Board of Curators’ first choice for system president turned down the offer in favor of a position in the private sector, Board chairman Don Walsworth announced Friday.

Although curators tried to keep the candidates’ names under wraps, unnamed sources told the Kansas City Star on Thursday that the top candidate was Terry Sutter, a former Tyco Plastics & Adhesives executive and MU graduate.

The Board negotiated with the candidate, whom they declined to name, over the Memorial Day weekend, with negotiations continuing through the early part of the week. On Wednesday, the candidate announced his decision to accept another job offer.

After the curators’ closed session Friday, reporters pressed Walsworth on whether U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof would now be considered the front-runner for the position. Walsworth responded that, in his view, there were no front-runners. He said Hulshof was not a candidate as far as he knew.

Citing the board’s good rapport with search firm Baker-Parker, Walsworth said the curators’ experience would benefit them as they embark on a “complete new search,” seek new candidates and re-examine former applicants.

While the private sector may offer a higher salary, a potential president should appreciate the payoffs of working in higher education, said Frank Schmidt, chairman of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee.

“I would think that if we have a candidate who is not interested in (working in academia), we would not have the best person for the university,” he said.

The Board has not set a timeline for finding a new president, Walsworth said.

“We’re not under the gun,” he said. “Interim system president Gordon Lamb has been doing a magnificent job.”

The three rumored finalists all had business or political backgrounds. Walsworth said curators will continue to search for the “best man or woman for the job,” regardless of whether their experience lies in academic, business or social arenas.

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