Leon tabbed as interim president

Former Missouri Southern President Julio Leon has been tabbed to lead Colorado State University at Pueblo on an interim basis, the school announced this week.

Leon retired from Southern in 2007 after leading the University for 25 years.

“I’m looking forward to it, I’m very excited about it,” Leon told The Chart on Wednesday. “I just want to be a part of this institution which has a very positive feeling. They are very optimistic, they feel very good about themselves and I want to help them continue to feel that way and make progress.”

System Chancellor Joseph Blake announced on Monday in a release that he had recommended Leon, one of three finalists, be hired as interim president. If approved by the university’s board of governors, which must wait 14 days to act on the resolution according to state law, Leon would replace Joe Garcia, who left the post earlier this month after being elected to serve as Colorado’s lieutenant governor, following four years as president.

Leon told The Chart he belongs to an organization of retired college and university presidents that makes available to institutions in transition the opportunity to hire a president with experience.

“I had several opportunities but this one appealed to me,” Leon said. “I always liked Colorado, and of course Colorado State University – Pueblo is also very similar to Missouri Southern.”

Leon said the school began as a junior college in the 1930’s before becoming a four-year college and then a university, like Southern.

“It’s a regional university and it’s the most important institution in the region and highly respected,” he said. “That’s what appealed to me.”

The university listed 5,145 undergraduate students this fall, and offers 29 undergraduate programs.

“I think the experience that I have acquired through the years at Missouri Southern obviously will come in handy in providing leadership here at Pueblo in all aspects of it,” Leon said.

Leon is scheduled to participate in a campus reception on Thursday morning in Pueblo. Blake, in Monday’s release, said he was committed to continuing the school’s momentum during the transition period.

“Dr. Leon will be an effective interim president,” Blake wrote. “He will work with the campus and community to lead the university along is positive trajectory, while the board begins a national search for a permanent president.”

Blake added that his intent was for Leon to begin his duties on Nov. 29. He is expected to remain through June, 2011.

“Most important, I believe, at this institution is to help maintain a very positive momentum that the institution has,” Leon said. “The previous president, who became lieutenant governor, was very successful in propelling the institution forward with a lot of development so there is a lot of positive feeling about the university here in the Pueblo community and I have already met a lot of people. Everybody is very interested in maintaining that momentum in such a way that things will not be interrupted just because there’s an interim.

“I want to find ways in which I can help them maintain that momentum and keep that positive feeling that is important for the morale of an institution,” he added.

Leon was selected over George Dennison, retired president of the University of Montana, and retired Texas A&M International president Charles Jennett.