As the University of Missouri continues to search for a new system president, in the wake of racial protests, it will have a full nine-member Board of Curators to make the selection — and one of them will be the only African-American member.
Gov. Jay Nixon said Wednesday he was naming three new members to the board, plus a student representative from the Columbia campus. The interim appointees can take office immediately, without confirmation by the Missouri Senate and serve until Nixon’s successor takes office next year.
Filling the three vacancies on the board will be Mary Nelson, general counsel for St. Louis Community College; Tom Voss, former chief executive of Ameren Corp. who now chairs Smart Wires, a global grid optimization company; and Jon Sundvold, the former Mizzou basketball star who is now president and founder of Sundvold Financial, an investment advisory firm.
Nixon also named Gene Patrick Graham of Columbia to fill the slot of non-voting student representative on the board.
“It is vitally important that the University of Missouri System has the leadership it needs to continue to be an internationally recognized model of academic excellence,” Nixon said in a statement.
“I appreciate this immensely qualified and diverse group of leaders for stepping up at this critical time to serve this institution, its students and our state. With a full complement of members, the Board of Curators is well positioned to complete the task of selecting the next system president in the next few months.”
Earlier this year, both black members of the board from the St. Louis area — David Steward of St. Louis County and Yvonne Sparks of St. Louis – resigned from the board. Both said that the time required of being a curator at a time that Sparks called “a perfect storm” was too demanding.
Prior to their departures, Ann Covington of Columbia, the first female judge appointed to the Missouri Supreme Court, stepped down in November, citing personal reasons.
Senate leadership made it clear that it would not confirm any curator nominations by Nixon during its regular session that ended in mid-May, even though the board was operating at two-thirds strength.
Nelson, who is black, was nominated to the board last year, along with three other lawyers, but she was the only one who was not confirmed. At the time, state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he thought if she joined the board, there would be too many lawyers. All members but Steward would have been lawyers.
“Eight lawyers out of nine total curators?” he said at the time. “At some point, there needs to be a broader professional diversity of professional backgrounds on there.”
He also said that because Nelson is general counsel for St. Louis Community College, she would face a possible conflict of interest.
As student curator, Graham will be a member of the university’s presidential search committee, which is looking for candidates to succeed Tim Wolfe. He resigned in November after racial protests at Mizzou.
The University of Missouri’s Board of Curators holds the license for St. Louis Public Radio.
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