Southern alumnus appointed to higher education board

Rebecca Watts

The Coordinating Board for Higher Education’s recent revolving door just let in a Missouri Southern graduate.

David Cole and Dr. Charles McClain are two new faces on the board. Departing members are Dr. Gregory G. Fitch and Marie Carmichael. McClain, serving as interim commissioner of higher education, is actually a familiar face. He served in that capacity in the 1990s.

Governor Matt Blunt appointed Cole as the latest addition to the CBHE on July 25, 2006.

Cole graduated from Southern in 1991 and earned a law degree from University of Missouri-Columbia.

“I’ve always been interested in education,” he said. “When the governor called to ask me to join, I was honored.”

Cole has board experience at the elementary, secondary and college levels, and was a member of the Cassville R-lV Board of Education/Crowder College Foundation Board of Directors. From 1995 to 1998, Cole served as Prosecuting Attorney for Barry County, and is a law partner at Ellis, Cupps and Cole in Cassville.

Cole replaces Marie Carmichael on the board. Her six-year term expired in June, and Cole’s term will conclude in June 2012.

While adjusting to Cole and McClain’s incoming, the CBHE is hunting nationwide for a permanent commissioner.

The hunt also is on for Dr. Gregory G. Fitch’s replacement.

Fitch resigned in June to accept the duties as the Executive Director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.

The board appointed McClain as the Interim Commissioner of Higher Education for Missouri beginning August 1, 2006.

He remembers faces from his previous stint.

“A few of the people here are the same,” he said, “some members have gotten younger.”

In 1954, McClain earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Missouri State University and earned a master’s and doctorate in education from University of Missouri-Columbia.

McClain said his greatest achievement was establishing the two-year Jefferson College.

He was the first and only employee and spent seven years as president.

“I started it from zero,” he said, “I consider that my best accomplishment-is starting something from scratch.”

He oversaw the production of three of the five buildings on campus and two bond issues. The institution now thrives with about 4,200 enrolled students.

He made his name known through his experience as president of Truman State University from 1970 to 1989.

He led the university through a transition phase from a regional to a statewide institution.

In 1985, the university was recognized as the only statewide public liberal arts and sciences university in Missouri.

The university received national recognition and honors, and in 1987 it rated one of the five most innovative universities/colleges in the country by a “U.S. News & World Report” survey.

In McClain’s previous term, from 1989 to 1995, he raised the standards of teacher education programs and created core curriculum for admission to four-year colleges and universities.

McClain’s background is thick with leadership experience in elementary, secondary and postsecondary education.

McClain carried out the duties of interim head of Columbia Independent School in Columbia, Mo. from 2004 to 2005.

In January 2005, Blunt established the 20-member Missouri State Government Review Commission to study all executive departments of state government.

McClain contributed to this organization, which made suggestions to improve productivity, give financial advice and provide better service.

The board presented a final report to the Governor with 84 recommendations by November 2005.

The Interim Commissioner position includes leading the Missouri Department of Higher Education in achieving the CBHE’s goals and administrative tasks for the state system of higher education. More than 400,000 students are helped at:

• 13 public four-year campuses

• 19 public two-year campuses

• One public two-year technical college

• 25 independent campuses and 140 proprietary schools.

McClain’s temporary involvement as Interim Commissioner will not be a passive term.

He hopes to establish new funding formulas for public two and four-year institutions, restore funding for the board’s staff, develop more cooperative programs and help search for the permanent Interim Commissioner.

“It is an important work to find someone that can make a contribution,” McClain said. “It’s an on-going process.”