Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Khayat to Retire

“Having reached the ripe old age of 70-plus, it is time for me to retire,” Khayat said in a news release. “I do so with a heart filled with gratitude to the thousands of people who support our university. I leave with an abiding affection for the people and the school, and with confidence that this university will continue to provide the quality programs so vital to our state and region.”

University employees said this morning that Khayat has “a full schedule today” and would not be taking interviews from the media.

The former pro-football player and law school professor has led Ole Miss since summer 1995.

“Robert Khayat is one of the most effective university leaders I have ever known,” said interim Commissioner of Higher Education Aubrey Lucas. “He has made a transforming difference at his alma mater. We wish him much happiness in his well deserved retirement.”

During his formal announcement meeting this morning, Khayat only touched on his successor by saying he trusts the state College Board to make the right decision for the university.

The board is expected to accept Khayat’s retirement request and discuss the institutional transition during a meeting next week.

“Dr. Khayat has served the University of Mississippi and the state of Mississippi with distinction,” said College Board president Amy Whitten, an Ole Miss alumnae. “His accomplishments during his tenure have been exceptional, and he will be truly missed.”

Khayat has led the school though rapid growth and several changes through the years.

Since 1995, Ole Miss’ enrollment has swelled from 12,254 students to 17,601. The growth included a more than 75 percent surge in minority enrollment, and a 740 percent increase in financial aid dollars.

The Honors College has grown from 229 students in 1995 to more than 750 today, and Ole Miss has more than double the number of National Merit Finalists enrolled today as it did in 1995.

“It’s been amazing working with (Khayat) for the past decade,” his speech writer Linda Peal said. “The university has greatly changed. ... It is a sad day for me.”

This year alone, Khayat has seen his alma mater through a U.S. presidential debate and a Cotton Bowl win, in addition to its 25th Rhodes Scholar and first black Alumni Association president.

“This was a big year (for Ole Miss),” said Andy Mullins, executive assistant to the chancellor.

Walker Agnew, a senior from Houston and the only student who attended the formal announcement this morning, said Khayat stressed how the vice chancellors, faculty and students are the ones who will carry on his goals for Ole Miss.

“Chancellor Khayat got a little emotional when he first started talking,” Agnew said. “He discussed many of his accomplishments, then said he and his wife talked and the time felt right.”

Senate Universities and Colleges committee chair Doug Davis, R-Hernando, said he appreciated Khayat’s dedication to making the college experience the best for Ole Miss students.

“His mission was always to make the university better than when he found it, and he has certainly done that,” Davis said. “Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi will certainly miss his leadership. I appreciate his friendship and wish him only the best.”

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