New Jersey executive rejects Missouri presidency

Friday, June 1, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- The top candidate to lead the University of Missouri system has turned down an offer to lead the institution, The Associated Press has confirmed.

University curators made the undisclosed offer to Terry Sutter, 49, a New Jersey business executive and graduate of the Columbia campus, a source familiar with the offer told the AP.

Sutter, a former president of Tyco Plastics & Adhesives who was replaced after a 2006 takeover of the company, will instead take another job in industry, said the source, a close confidant of Sutter who requested anonymity because of the confidential nature of Missouri's search.

Meanwhile, The Kansas City Star, citing unnamed sources, reported Friday that U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof has fallen out of favor with the Board of Curators, who may now scrap the five-month search and start over. The Star had also reported Sutter's rejection of the offer.

"The board is back to square one," the source told the newspaper.

Sutter's rejection came as curators convened at the University of Missouri-Columbia for their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday and Friday.

Curators interrupted that meeting Thursday for a previously unannounced closed session about the next presidential hire. They are also scheduled to meet behind closed doors Friday afternoon to discuss the search.

Board members have consistently declined to discuss search details. Several declined comment Friday morning.

Sutter, who did not return telephone calls to his home seeking comment, was one of three finalists under consideration to succeed Elson Floyd, who left in April to become president of Washington State University.

Hulshof, of Columbia, had publicly acknowledged his interest in the job after interviewing in St. Louis.

The board has set no timetable for selecting a new leader of the St. Louis, Kansas City, Rolla and Columbia campuses but hopes to have a hire in place before the fall semester.

Curators are scheduled to next meet in Marceline in late July, although they have regularly convened by telephone conference calls to discuss the search process.

Sutter 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. He previously spent two years as president of Cytec Industries' specialty chemical division and was also president of industry solutions for Honeywell/Allied Signal.

Hulshof, a Republican in his sixth term in Washington, is also an alumni of the flagship campus. He declined, through his press spokesman, to comment Friday.

Amid mounting public speculation and a flurry of leaked candidate names, university general counsel Bunky Wright addressed the search process Friday in a broader briefing on confidentiality to curators.

While state law allows the board to discuss personnel decisions behind closed doors, Wright also acknowledged that curators could disclose the names of finalists, as some other universities have done.

"It's your decision," he said.

At the same time, candidates will often request anonymity as a condition of consideration for top jobs, Wright said. Hulshof's public acknowledgement aside, that has been the case in the current search, he said.

"It is not a matter of trying to hide anything," he said.

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