By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Alan Marble, the retiring president of Crowder College, has been named the interim president of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
The announcement came Thursday evening after the hiring was unanimously approved by the Board of Governors during an hourlong closed meeting. Marble is set to begin on July 1.
“I can’t wait for this thing to get started,” Marble said in a news conference after the meeting.
The board announced earlier this week that it had ousted President Bruce Speck, who had two years left on his contract. As part of his settlement, Speck will receive the equivalent of a year’s salary, plus a housing allowance and health coverage through December.
Marble, who is retiring after 27 years at Crowder College in Neosho, had been hired by Speck last month to fill the newly created position of special assistant to the president. He said Thursday that the position now is expected to go unfilled.
Marble said the terms of his contract are still being worked out, but he expects his salary to be more than the $125,000 he would have earned as assistant to the president.
While he originally had been hired to help with fundraising and to serve as a liaison to community colleges, Marble said his job duties as interim president would be expanded, though he had no firm plan for the immediate future.
“I think it’s important for a person to get to know the people” of the university, he said. “We’re going to figure out together where we’re going to go.”
Sherry Buchanan, who has spent the past two years as chairwoman of the board, said Marble’s contract is for one year, but that it is “open-ended” because the search for the next president could take longer than that. No further details on the search approach or timeline have yet been announced.
Pat Lipira, interim vice president for academic affairs, said she was “thrilled” by the naming of Marble to the post.
“I think he’ll be great for Missouri Southern,” she said. “He’s done great things at Crowder, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t do great things at Missouri Southern.”
Speck has been out of his office and unavailable for comment for about three weeks. Attempts to reach him via telephone and at his home were unsuccessful Thursday.
Board members were largely quiet on Speck’s dismissal earlier Thursday during their regular monthly meeting.
But Joy Dworkin, president of the faculty senate, said during her report to the board that the senate’s executive committee will support a “thorough and successful” procedure to find the next president.
The faculty had often been at odds with Speck throughout his five-year tenure as president. Faculty complaints leveled against Speck in the fall of 2009 included assertions of breaches of shared governance. The faculty later delivered a no-confidence vote against the president that was driven, in part, by accusations of poor communication and the withholding of information.
“I think it is no surprise that the faculty is very pleased with the board’s recent decision to move toward new leadership,” Dworkin told the board Thursday.
Dworkin told the Globe earlier in the week that she was not surprised by the announcement that Speck’s contract was terminated. She said Speck’s recent absence coupled with the board’s numerous closed meetings over the past several months for his evaluation helped spark thinking on campus that a change was coming.
“I think it was not the usual pattern, so people started to wonder if perhaps there was going to be a decision not to renew the contract,” she said.
Speck also drew criticism in April after supporting an effort to remove the university’s international mission designation from state statute, a move that disgruntled faculty, staff and students who were unhappy that there had been no public discussion of the issue beforehand. The proposal was halted by a local legislator who said he wanted to give MSSU officials more time to research the potential financial consequences of eliminating the mission from the statute.
Ivy Love, a 2010 graduate of MSSU and an organizer of a Facebook group created to support the international mission, said the mission is instrumental in introducing students to different cultures and sparking in them an awareness of global issues.
“In light of the forthcoming change in university administration, MSSU Alumni for the International Mission calls on the Missouri Southern Board of Governors to demonstrate a renewed commitment to the international mission and to seek out a president for our university who will be invested in protecting and fostering intercultural understanding and international education at Missouri Southern,” she said in a statement.
Some have said they are sorry to see Speck gone.
AshLeigh Thomlinson, a senior biochemistry major, said she interacted with Speck through the student senate, for which she serves as treasurer. She said she thinks he was a good president.
“I served on a committee with him, and he introduced me to the committee himself and would point out things that were relevant to me to make sure I knew what I needed to take from that,” she said. “When I would see him around campus, he knew my name. I definitely felt like he cared.”
Joplin resident Ryan Jackson said he knew Speck primarily through civic activities such as Rotary Club and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. He said Speck was instrumental in linking the university with the Joplin community.
Jackson said Speck encouraged MSSU students to become involved in the Young Professionals Network, a branch of the Chamber of Commerce, and supported programs such as the Super Leader Program, a partnership between MSSU and the Young Professionals Network to promote and enhance community leadership among college students. He said Speck also worked to bring members of the community into the MSSU campus.
“It feels like Missouri Southern is more like a part of Joplin now than prior to Dr. Speck’s arrival, and I think he was very important to help build some of those bridges,” Jackson said. “I try to be civic-minded and stay involved in the community, and I felt that Bruce did the same thing. He felt his job went beyond the university, that as president of the university he felt like he needed to be involved, like any other member of the community.”
THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS on Thursday elected Richard Walter, a retired Joplin resident who was appointed to the board in 2007, to serve as chairman, and Lynn Ewing, the Vernon County prosecutor who was appointed in 2010, to serve as vice chairman.