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Steve Owens appointed interim president

Gary D. Forsee to step down as University of Missouri System president

Curators applaud his strong leadership, strategic direction and achievements

COLUMBIA, Mo.–University of Missouri System President Gary D. Forsee told curators in a special meeting today that he is stepping down from his role, effective immediately, “solely for personal reasons.”

Forsee told curators his wife Sherry is recovering well from recent surgery and will “soon begin a treatment regimen to ensure she remains cancer-free. I’d like to extend my special thanks to all of you for your support over the past several years and for your important service to this university.”

Warren Erdman, chair of the university’s Board of Curators said, “We are clearly saddened to lose such a great leader for our four-campus enterprise, but know that his place is with Sherry as she undergoes the typically rigorous treatment facing cancer patients. We respect Gary’s decision, and the entire university community joins us in wishing Gary and Sherry all the best for the future.”

Erdman said the board will begin a search immediately for the 23rd system president. In addition, he said the curators have appointed Steve Owens, general counsel, as interim president. Owens will assume this responsibility, which he has overseen on Forsee’s behalf since Dec. 2, with significant input and consultation with other university general officers, including chancellors. Phillip J. Hoskins also was appointed acting general counsel. Both Owens’ and Hoskins’ appointments are effective immediately.

Erdman underscored the curators’ commitment to the current direction of the university system and expressed confidence in the ability of the campus chancellors and system officers to continue taking on the tough issues facing higher education in Missouri and in our country. “We are proud of what this team under Gary’s leadership has accomplished in the past several years,” he said.

These accomplishments include:

  • Reinvigoration of the system’s research and economic development program, including a $5-million Enterprise Investment Program to support business collaboration with university researchers;
  • Consistently strong operating performance during the most challenging economic climate due to strategic financial decisions and stringent cost controls that resulted in improved credit ratings (to Aa1 and AA+). These strategies included: issuance of nearly $600 million in debt financing at historically low interest rates to fund overdue maintenance/repair of facilities and other critical campus needs; adoption and implementation of new asset allocation policies for the endowment and retirement trust funds; and targeted expense reductions;
  • Implementation of a comprehensive system of accountability measures to support more transparent operations and performance;
  • Advocacy for more competitive faculty and staff salaries and benefits by cutting non-strategic expenses and aligning available funds for this and other priorities;
  • Creation of the new University of Missouri Health Care enterprise;
  • New private-public partnerships, such as the Mizzou-Cerner Tiger Institute for Health Innovation, that are focused on innovation and creation of new university revenue streams;
  • Systemwide evaluation and implementation of a “shared services” organization model to significantly improve quality and cost-effectiveness of administrative processes in human resources, information technology and finance;
  • Two statewide summits, on energy and the life sciences, which uniquely brought together businesses, investors, elected officials and the academic community to explore new collaboration and cultivation of new enterprises across the state;
  • Investment in the university’s eLearning infrastructure to provide greater access to courses and programs on all four campuses via a single eLearning web “portal,” and to bolster eLearning applications that enhance teaching and learning for on- and off-campus courses;
  • Agreement with Gov. Nixon, the General Assembly and the campuses to hold tuition flat for two years, and leadership in achieving parity on Access Missouri scholarships for public and private higher education students;
  • Achievement of $115 million in documented cost savings through campus and system efficiency and effectiveness measures;
  • Creation of two task forces--one that focused on identifying ways to ensure students have a clear pathway to college from their earliest school days, and the other to evaluate how well the university is preparing students for success in the workplace; and
  • Advocacy for greater access to the university for under-represented minorities and economically disadvantaged students by participating in the national Access to Success initiative.

In a letter to University employees, Forsee said it has been an honor to serve as president for the past three years, and committed his full support to the University of Missouri System long into the future. “The University President’s role is a statewide, ‘24X7’ commitment to support the teaching, research, service and economic development mission of our four campuses,” he said.  “This is a role both Sherry and I have taken on, and with passion.   We have enjoyed the opportunity to serve our state and help in any way we could during what has certainly proven to be a challenging time.”

Erdman added the curators also appreciate the lasting gift of the four TelePresence rooms that the Forsees have given the campuses. “These rooms enable our faculty, researchers and students--and even our board--to have quality face-to-face meetings at a distance. These high-tech facilities have improved inter-campus communications while significantly reducing travel expenses, and we are still among the very few universities in the country with this capability,” he noted.

Erdman also lauded Forsee’s commitment to “being part of the solution” to the state’s economic challenges, despite the decade-long slide in state funding support for the university.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a leader of the highest order,” he said. “And we appreciate that he put a team in place that’s moving forward on the path that he so thoughtfully put forth. We will miss him, but will always count him as a valued member of our community through his status as an alumnus, donor and past president.”

Reviewed 2011-01-31.