Daily Journal

OXFORD - Replacing University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat may be difficult or it may be easy, depending on how the state College Board proceeds with the task.

Historian David Sansing of Oxford remembers that when Khayat was hired in 1995, no national search occurred and he was hired by acclamation as the only candidate.

That's a major difference from the structured process that Mississippi State University went through in three national searches in the past several years.

Its new president, Dr. Mark Keenum, an alumnus, is in his first days on the job in Starkville but went through each one of those searches until he emerged the preferred candidate in late 2008. Each search was controversial, partly because of strong pressure on the College Board to choose Keenum.

"Robert Khayat has done the board a great service by giving them six months to find a successor," Sansing said Tuesday after hearing Khayat's plan to retire by June 30.

Whoever the successor is, "it's going to be easy," the retired history professor noted. Khayat's "done all the heavy lifting."

More about the process to replace Khayat may be known Jan. 15, when the College Board meets to accept his retirement and discuss how it will move ahead to find a new chancellor.

The MSU process involved hiring a national consultant to recruit applicants, a campus advisory committee that screened applicants and a College Board search committee to work on finalists.

Along the way, the process drew criticism because details about applicants were kept secret, although their names became public through media reports.

Ole Miss alumnus Charles Overby, a well-known benefactor to the university, predicts the Oxford search will demand an alumnus at the helm.

"I think Robert showed the value of having a strong historic tie to Ole Miss," he said. "Ole Miss does better when it's led by one of its own."

Sansing agreed: "I really believe Robert has demonstrated the wisdom of getting someone associated or affiliated with the university."

Dr. Gloria Kellum, the university's vice chancellor for university relations, said the new chancellor will need to be "somebody held in high regard by all colleagues - students, faculty, staff, alumni, state leaders, congressional members. It will have to be someone with deep integrity and a love for providing opportunities for other people."

Ole Miss Alumni Association President Rose Jackson Flenorl noted the importance of identifying and tapping private sources of money - an endeavor in which Khayat has particularly excelled.

"We need a chancellor who has fundraising ability, who believes in strong academics," she said.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or

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