Curators mum on timetable for picking new president

Friday, June 1, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Amid mounting public speculation and leaked candidate names, University of Missouri officials remained mum Thursday about the search for the system's next president.

Curators interrupted their regularly scheduled meeting on the Columbia campus for an unannounced closed session about the next presidential hire. They also are scheduled to meet behind closed doors this afternoon to discuss the confidential search.

Earlier, the system's interim president suggested that curators expect to settle on their choice before they leave town, though it was unclear if the board planned to immediately disclose its selection.

"We should know something tomorrow," interim president Gordon Lamb told The Associated Press at the start of the two-day meeting at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Lamb later said he had been mischaracterized, and that curators had no official time frame for picking a new leader.

The Kansas City Star, citing three unnamed sources, reported Thursday that New Jersey business executive Terry Sutter is the leading candidate to oversee the four-campus system.

Sutter, a former president of Tyco Plastics & Adhesives, graduated from the Columbia campus in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering. He was replaced as Tyco president one year ago after a private investment firm purchased the company and changed its name to Covalence Specialty Materials.

The company bills itself as the world's largest maker of plastic garbage bags and duct tape.

Sutter, 49, previously spent two years as president of Cytec Industries' specialty chemical division and was president of industry solutions for Honeywell/Allied Signal. He did not return telephone calls to his Chester, N.J., home seeking comment.

Sutter joins Rep. Kenny Hulshof, a Republican who lives in Columbia and is an alumnus of the flagship campus, as one of three finalists for the job. Hulshof acknowledged last week that he's a contender.

The third possible candidate, according to published reports, is bond fund executive William Thompson Jr., a 1968 civil engineering graduate of the Columbia campus who runs Pacific Investment Management Co., also known as PIMCO. Thompson has not returned repeated calls for comment to his home and office, both in Newport Beach, Calif.

The curator meeting follows interviews with three finalists in St. Louis last week by a 19-member advisory panel of professors, alumni, students, retirees and nonfaculty employees from the Rolla, Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia campuses.

On Thursday, university spokesman Scott Charton said that no announcement regarding the new president is planned. However, employees in the university's communications department were told to keep sound, lighting and video equipment nearby in case of a last-minute news conference.

The apparent selection of three finalists with no background in higher education administration is consistent with previous comments by curators that they would seek nontraditional candidates from beyond academia.

Curators hoped that keeping the names of candidates to replace Elson Floyd as leader of the four-campus system under wraps would lead to a smooth succession. Candidates who didn't want to jeopardize their current jobs demanded such confidentiality, according to curators and search consultant Jerry Baker.

Floyd left Columbia in April after announcing late last year his plans to become president of Washington State University.

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