Thursday, January 8, 2009
Ole Miss chancellor announces retirement
Some University of Mississippi employees wept Tuesday morning when their chancellor of 14 years, Robert C. Khayat, told them of his plans to retire June 30.
“Having reached the ripe old age of 70-plus, it is time for me to retire,” Khayat said. “I do so with a heart filled with gratitude to the thousands of people who support our university. I leave with an abiding affection for the people and the school, and with confidence that this university will continue to provide the quality programs so vital to our state and region.”
Sue Keiser, Khayat’s assistant for 11 years, said, “I simply can't imagine Ole Miss without him. Working with him on a daily basis to move our university from good to great has been richly rewarding, but above that, our friendship has been one of the greatest joys of my life.”
Khayat, a former baseball catcher and football kicker on Ole Miss sports teams, has been calling the signals at his alma mater since summer 1995. Since then, he has drawn praise for a multitude of achievements that have earned the institution national respect, recognition and admiration.
This past semester alone, the university ranked among the nation’s top 25 public universities on Forbes.com, hosted a presidential debate, announced its 25th Rhodes Scholar, inaugurated the first black president of its alumni association, trounced Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl and wound down its successful $200 million MomentUM campaign.
“We were really a relatively unknown state university, but he has made us nationally prominent,” said Provost Emeritus Carolyn Staton, Khayat’s friend and colleague for more than 30 years. “I think that will forever change the direction of the university. I think history will truly treat him as one of the heroes of Ole Miss.”
Under Khayat’s leadership, two capital campaigns generated nearly $775 million in private support. With that support, UM created the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Lott Leadership Institute, Galtney Center for Academic Computing, Ford Center for the Performing Arts and Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, and expanded its academic and athletics facilities.
It also secured a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s most prestigious liberal arts honor society. The chapter, the first awarded to a public university in Mississippi, was granted only after endowments, library holdings, technological resources, liberal arts programs and student scholarships were increased.
“Robert Khayat enables people to believe in themselves and what they’re doing,” said Gloria Kellum, UM’s vice chancellor for university relations since 1998.
“Because of that, Ole Miss became ‘the little engine that could,’ and we accomplished things that faculty, staff, students and alumni believed impossible only a decade or two ago,” Kellum said. “He inspired all of us to come together to build a great public university.”
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