Jones becomes new University of Mississippi leader

Published 1:15 pm Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The new University of Mississippi chancellor said Monday that he’s in no hurry to change how the Ole Miss system operates.

Dr. Dan Jones will succeed Robert Khayat on July 1, overseeing a university with several campuses, including the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

Jones visited with university faculty, staff, students and alumni Monday as part of the state College Board’s selection process. He was named chancellor later in the day.

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Jones, during a telephone interview after the official announcement on Monday, said he’ll listen “to people in the university family and our state to work together and articulate what the vision of the university needs to be in the next few years.”

“The university is in a very healthy place right now,” Jones said. “There’s not an urgent need in resetting an agenda.”

A graduate of Mississippi College and UMC, Jones assumed the $215,000-per-year post as dean of medicine after the retirement six years ago 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 UMC 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’s been active on the national level in health care policy and leadership, serving as president of the American Heart Association from 2007-08.

“I am confident the board has found the right person to take this great American public university to the next level of excellence,” state College Board President Amy Whitten said in a statement.

Jones said Khayat’s leadership had been “transformational,” adding that following in his footsteps would be a challenge. Last year, the university hosted one of the presidential debates between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

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

Rose Flenorl of Memphis, Tenn., president of the university’s Alumni Association, said Jones understands the challenges ahead, including the economy’s impact. She said Jones told interviewers that if the state Legislature didn’t keep pace with the university’s budget needs, the other option is attracting more students.

“If it’s not appropriations, it has to be tuition,” she said.

The sprawling university in north Mississippi has an operating budget of $1.4 billion and an enrollment of 17,323. The university where James Meredith broke the color barrier in 1962 has a 19 percent minority enrollment.

Expanding the university’s support network will be another important task for Jones, Flenorl said.

“We help bring money to our school. No matter where we live in the world, we have Ole Miss alums who give back. We want someone who wants to build relationships with alums,” she said.