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Columbia Missourian

With a new president in place for the UM system, what do you want to know about him?

By Tom Warhover
December 20, 2007 | 4:29 p.m. CST
Tom Warhover is the Columbia Missourian's executive editor for innovation.

Dear Reader:

Gary Forsee said “somehow word got out” before the formal announcement Thursday of his ascendancy to the UM System presidency.


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“I don’t know how that happens around here,” he said. I couldn’t tell if it was an attempt at humor. Regardless, so begins the education of President Forsee.

As the former top dog at Sprint, Forsee saw plenty of the spotlight, especially when he was forced to resign earlier this year as shareholders got restless. But company execs are recluses compared to university presidents. Forsee has already seen his e-mail published.

From now on, Forsee’s business is the public’s business.

I watched his first presidential performance from the comfort of my desk, through live streaming video over the Web. The news was updated within minutes at several newspaper Web sites throughout the state. The day before, the Associated Press, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the Columbia Daily Tribune reported the selection, based on anonymous sources. A month before, several news operations predicted that the yearlong search was just shy of done and Forsee was the final name on the list.

Elson Floyd received a similar greeting. His name made its way into news reports months before his public crowning here. Students at Western Michigan University even began a campaign to try to keep him.

It will be interesting to see what Forsee makes of his first 100 days in office. Floyd’s problem wasn’t with the first 100; it was with everything after.

Unlike that other presidential race, this one comes without a single promise to the most important stakeholder: the students. He has a long list of constituents to please, including a General Assembly that hasn’t been so kind to Columbia in recent years. So expect to see stories in the coming days about what Forsee expects. As he said Thursday, a leader needs to articulate a vision and a way to attain it. As Columbians, we all need to know where the biggest company in town is heading.

I’m interested in your questions about the new president and the direction of the university (system or hometown university or both). Let me know.

In the meantime, look for one of my favorite Q ‘n’ As — is there a Santa Claus — on Tuesday in our annual re-running of “Yes, Virginia ...”

Enjoy the holidays,