Speck accepts top post

Senator Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) answers questions about the presidential search at Missouri Southern.

Julie Lybarger

Senator Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) answers questions about the presidential search at Missouri Southern.

A new era is about to begin at Missouri Southern.

Surrounded by members of the Board of Governors, the presidential selection committee and state politicians, Dwight Douglas, chairman of the Board and chair of the selection committee, introduced Dr. Bruce W. Speck Jan. 18 as the University’s next president. Speck is scheduled to assume his duties Feb. 4.

Just a week before Speck’s appointment, two finalists had been announced for the presidential position.

Dr. Joe Wiley withdrew from the University’s presidential search Jan. 11 after being appointed to the presidential position at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn. Wiley was scheduled to visit Southern on Jan. 17, the day after Speck.

There were 41 applications for the position, and in narrowing the applicant pool Douglas said the selection committee decided on the finalists before Christmas, then he asked the group to re-examine the applicants for any additions.

“The search committee unanimously agreed that we had identified the two best candidates and that we did not want to add anyone else to the list,” Douglas said.

The Board of Governors met with Speck for three hours on the evening of Jan. 16. Members of the faculty were polled on his visit that day and results delivered just minutes before the Board entered closed session.

“He comes with the unanimous support of the search committee,” Douglas said. “He comes with the unanimous support of the Board of Governors. He comes with the support of the faculty. Now we ask that the community support him.”

Dr. Al Cade, head of the department of teacher education, said Speck impressed him because of his team approach and his aversion to preconceived ideas.

“I thought (the process) was just tremendous,” Cade said. “We did a lot of work and we believe he is the best man for the position.”

The process itself was confidential.

“It’s important for an individual in the type of position that would be the type of feeding-group for such a position as ours,” said Debbie Dutch Kelly. “You want to make sure that their reputation was treated in a confidential manner so that if it turned out that they weren’t the candidate chosen they didn’t have any issues at their worksite.”

Speck is currently the provost and vice president of academic and student affairs at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.

Dr. Tim Hall, president of Austin Peay, released a statement saying he was saddened by the loss of his colleague.

“Austin Peay will miss his academic leadership, his humor, and his tenor voice,” Hall said. “I, in particular, have found his counsel invaluable in my first months at

Austin Peay and regret that we will not have the opportunity of working further together.”

Speck described Austin Peay as similar to Southern with an enrollment of 9,300. The student body there also has a number of commuter and non-traditional students. Students at Southern are hoping for new energy coming from Speck’s appointment.

“I’m thoroughly behind him,” said Carolyn White, senior biology major and student representative to the search committee.

White says Speck is ready to listen to all the groups on campus, students, faculty and staff.

“Being student friendly is the biggest thing,” White said. “His stature talking one-on-one with a student – before he is hired – says a lot.”

When Speck toured the campus, the server room was one of his stops. Bob Walker, assistant vice president of information service said he appreciated the gesture.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen a president in our department,” Walker said. “That’s a good sign. You really can’t run a university from a single office in a single building so it’s good to have him out and about.”

Dr. Terri Agee, acting president, says she is ready to welcome Speck to the presidential office.

“I’ve already enjoyed working with Dr. Speck. I’m excited I think we’ve put together a good, strong team,” Agee said.

She said she enjoyed her time as acting president, but the job left her little time with her family.

“I’ve enjoyed it but I’m looking forward to his arrival,” she said.