College Board names Jones preferred UM chancellor

Published 10:53 pm Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dr. Dan Jones, dean of the University of Mississippi’s school of medicine and vice chancellor for health affairs, is the College Board’s preferred candidate for chancellor at Ole Miss.

The board announced the selection Tuesday. It also named state Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds the preferred candidate for commissioner of higher education. The board will vote on the confirmations later this month.

Jones, 60, would succeed Robert Khayat as chancellor of the University of Mississippi, which has several campuses, including the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

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Khayat has provided strong leadership for the last 14 years, leaving Ole Miss “in a good position,” Jones said.

It would be easy to become complacent, he said, but Jones used golfer Tiger Woods as an example of why the university should strive for more.

“Tiger Woods reinvented his swing during a time that he was winning more tournaments than he had ever won in his life, but he was very transparent in saying that his body was changing, golf courses were changing … He didn’t wait until he began faltering,” Jones said.

“I think as we make the transition in leadership from a longtime charismatic leader it’s a good time for the university family to pause and to evaluate our swing.”

Jones has been the UMC dean and vice chancellor since 2003.

He will visit the main Ole Miss campus in Oxford on June 15 to meet constituent groups, and the College Board will take a final vote that day.

The announcements followed months of secretive searches by the College Board and consultants. The decisions leave two other high-profile education system vacancies in Mississippi to be filled.

A graduate of Mississippi College and UMC, Jones assumed the $215,000-per-year post as dean of medicine after the retirement of Dr. Wallace Conerly, who had led the medical school since August 1994.

Jones served as a medical missionary in South Korea from 1985 to 1992 before returning to the University of Mississippi Medical Center as an assistant professor of medicine and director of clinical hypertension.

He led the Jackson Heart Study, researching heart disease among blacks. Jones also chaired the International Committee of the American Heart Association.

“He is a man of integrity and intelligence,” Khayat said. “Dr. Jones understands the unique role that the University of Mississippi plays in this state as a flagship university.”

Jones said his first goal is to listen to the university’s staff, alumni, and students. He added he didn’t take the job because he was seeking something different.

“My interest was primarily because people asked me to consider doing this. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing now,” Jones said.

Khayat’s salary was $446,775, with half of that from private funds.

If Bounds, 41, is approved June 17, he would succeed Thomas C. Meredith in the top administrative job for central office of the state’s system of eight public universities. Meredith retired Nov. 15 after a state auditor’s investigation into landscaping at his home.

Meredith’s salary was $341,250. Bounds, as state superintendent of education, was paid 90 percent of the higher education commissioner’s salary, or just over $307,000.

Aubrey Lucas has served as interim commissioner.

Bounds said the possibility of his leaving K-12 education is “kind of bittersweet.”

“I’m going to miss the world I live in right now,” he said.

Bounds said the biggest challenge will be making the most efficient use of money. He also said officials need to think about K-12, community colleges and universities as “one seamless system” — not three separate systems.

“We have to focus on doing what’s best for Mississippi, to create a better educated citizenry,” he said.

Bounds is a 1985 graduate of Forrest County Agricultural High School. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Southern Mississippi and his doctorate from the University of Mississippi.

He was principal at Lumberton High from 1996-2001, then spent two years as Pascagoula High School principal. He became Pascagoula schools superintendent in 2001.

Since becoming state Superintendent in 2005, Bounds has been praised for his management skills.

He started that job weeks before Hurricane Katrina’s rampage along the Mississippi coast. Bounds was credited with helping coast schools find buses, books and other supplies to reopen after the storm.

He also successfully pushed for legislation to fire school superintendents in low-performing districts. Bounds scrapped the rating system and he worked to implement a tougher curriculum with more rigorous standardized tests.

“Dr. Bounds has all the qualities we were looking for. He is an exceptional leader with vision,” said Commissioner Board Search Committee Chair Ed Blakeslee.