JACKSON, Miss. – Alcorn State University President Dr. George E. Ross is leaving the Mississippi campus early next year to take the helm at Central Michigan University.
Ross, 58, will return to Central Michigan University as its president March 1, the state College Board announced Thursday. Before coming to Alcorn State in January 2008, Ross had served as Central Michigan’s vice president for finance and administrative services.
Gail Torreano, chairwoman for the Board of Trustees of Central Michigan, said in a statement that Ross has a strong vision for the university in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
“His extensive experience successfully leading higher education institutions, excellent financial management background and high energy are well suited to lead CMU forward in these difficult economic times.”
In Mississippi, meanwhile, some said Ross’ departure comes at a crucial time for Alcorn State. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has proposed merging Alcorn with the two other historically Black schools – Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University – to reduce state budget costs.
In a statement released by the College Board, Ross said he was honored to have served Alcorn and the state “during such a transformative time in the university’s history.” He said he didn’t actively seek the Central Michigan presidency.
The Central Michigan trustees board said it settled on Ross after a national search.
Since July 1, Dr. Kathleen M. Wilbur has served as interim president at Central Michigan. She’ll resume responsibilities as vice president of government relations and public affairs in March 2010. Wilbur succeeded President Michael Rao, who resigned in June 2009 to become president at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Ross was out of his office late last week and couldn’t immediately be reached by The Associated Press.
In a release from Central Michigan, Ross said he was “humbled by the confidence shown in me by the board of trustees, and I am excited by this tremendous opportunity to positively advance lives and futures through higher education at CMU.”
Alcorn has a fall enrollment of 3,339 students. Central Michigan’s enrollment is about 27,000.
“We certainly wish Dr. Ross all the best, but it couldn’t have been at a more difficult time when we’re dealing with real difficult questions on how we’re going to proceed with higher education,” said Mississippi House Universities and Colleges Committee Chairman Kelvin Buck, D-Holly Springs.
Buck said he hopes the process to replace Ross will move swiftly. The College Board is expected to discuss the resignation at its meeting Dec. 17
Also late last week, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said he had asked Senate Universities and Colleges Chairman Doug Davis, R-Hernando, to hold hearings on Barbour’s proposed merger of historically Black universities.
Ross and the other Black college presidents have criticized Barbour’s proposal, which is to be presented when the Mississippi Legislature convenes in January. Ross has said Alcorn State should remain independent because it’s an economic engine for southwest Mississippi.
Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank Bounds said Alcorn State had developed a new strategic plan, updated college housing and experienced enrollment growth under Ross’ leadership.
“Dr. Ross is a capable administrator and dedicated educator, so it is not surprising that another institution would want him to serve as its leader,” Bounds said in a statement.