Report: IHL Board narrows candidate list for University of Mississippi chancellor search

Published 11:39 am Monday, September 30, 2019

The University of Mississippi’s search for its next chancellor is coming more into focus as the calendar turns to October.

On Wednesday and Thursday, candidates are scheduled to have their first round of interviews with the Institutions of Higher Learning. A report from Mississippi Today on Monday revealed the names of eight candidates who were given invitations for this week’s round of interviews.

The names were finalized after a Sept. 19 IHL Board of Trustees meeting, which was held at Old Waverly Golf Course in West Point. It was categorized as a board retreat, per the report. The round of interviews comes after listening sessions were held at Ole Miss on Sept. 5, where all groups that make up the campus community got the opportunity to provide feedback and discuss which attributes they would like to see in their next leader.

A listening session was also held at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson during the summer.

Mississippi Today’s report continues to say the eight candidates which received interview invitations by the IHL was based on two things. The first was how the 39-member Campus Search Advisory Committee scored them and advice from the Tennessee search firm Baker Buffkin, which are serving as consultants during the chancellor search.

According to the report, the eight candidates who received interview invitations are: Michael Benson, president of Eastern Kentucky University since 2013; Kelly Damphousse, chancellor of Arkansas State University since 2017; Sharon Graber, president of the University of Toledo since 2015; Bill Hardgrave, provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at Auburn since 2018; Chris Howard, president of Robert Morris University since 2016; Cal Mayo, founding partner of Mayo Mallette PLLC in Oxford; Robert Robbins, president of the University of Arizona since 2017 and Fred Slabach, president of Texas Wesleyan University since 2011.

Notable candidates who did not receive invitations include former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove and former Congressman Chip Pickering. Gerard Gibert, who was the first person to publicly profess his interest in the chancellor position, also did not receive an interview invitation.

After this week’s first round of interviews, the IHL board will narrow the list down to who they want to return for the second round of interviews later this month. A preferred candidate is expected to be decided upon by the end of October.