COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMOX/AP) – University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton announced his retirement Wednesday after nearly a decade of leadership marked by sizable enrollment growth, a Columbia campus building boom and the school’s recent move to the Southeastern Conference.
Standing in the Jesse Hall rotunda behind a lectern used in the same location by Mark Twain more than a century ago, Deaton spoke to a crowd of deans, state lawmakers, athletics officials and curious office workers, some of whom leaned along overhead railings. The 70-year-old Kentucky native said he leaves the university after nine years at a time of strength and “in the absence of any major crises.”
“We’ve kept a true strategic focus for the university,” said Deaton, who will remain chancellor until Nov. 15 and then work for a new campus research effort on global hunger. “I’m building on the shoulders of everyone else who’s worked here.”
Deaton arrived at MU in 1989 as an agricultural economics professor and department chair after 12 years at Virginia Tech. He rose through the ranks as a deputy chancellor and provost before succeeding Richard Wallace as chancellor in October 2004.
Under Deaton’s leadership, student enrollment grew by more than 7,000, a 28.7 percent increase. Twenty-one new buildings opened, from the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders to a new student center and a life sciences business incubator. University inventions and intellectual property have generated $43.6 million in licensing income since 2007 alone, and research grants increased by nearly 50 percent.
“He’s a brilliant guy,” said deputy chancellor Mike Middleton. “He’s got such compassion and feeling for humanity, and improving conditions in the world…He’s a consummate university leader.”
Deaton declined to elaborate on the details of his new venture, which he will outline with more specifics Friday at a previously scheduled meeting of the university system’s Board of Curators. It’s expected to be an outgrowth of his 50-year interest in the global food supply that begin as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand five decades ago and continues on the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, a position for which Deaton was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Middleton said Deaton was instrumental in building Missouri’s reputation beyond the state’s borders, and expects the chancellor emeritus to continue representing the university in such a fashion.
“That’s his biggest natural strength,” Middleton said. “He has those global connections.”
Deaton said he also expects an appointment as a residential scholar at New York University but plans to remain in Columbia with his wife Anne, an adjunct professor of education and nursing at Missouri. The couple has four grown children three of whom are Mizzou graduates and seven grandchildren.
Deaton said he doesn’t expect to pursue other leadership opportunities in higher education, including any other job as a chancellor or university president.
“It would not fit my major commitment and interests,” he said. “That’s not what I’m looking for at all. In fact, I’m 110 percent overcommitted on these other issues I’m taking up.”
Deaton was accompanied by Board of Curators chairman Wayne Goode and Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri system. Neither spoke of the process for selecting Deaton’s successor, or whether an interim replacement will be selected.
After the formal announcement, Brady and his wife Anne traded hugs and handshakes with a succession of well-wishers. Co-workers and colleagues repeatedly cited Deaton’s strong moral compass and his belief in the school’s core mission as a public flagship university.
“Everything he does is just in a principled and dignified manner,” said general counsel Steve Owens, who served as the system’s interim president before Wolfe was hired. “He endured because he held office with such grace and dignity. “
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