Mary Nelson | St. Louis Public Radio

Mary Nelson

Interim President Mike Middleton addresses the University of Missouri Board of Curators
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

The interim president of the University of Missouri system said that even as memories of last fall’s racial protests in Columbia persist, the school continues to perform valuable services for the state.

But the only African-American member of the university’s Board of Curators wants to make sure that the system’s new emphasis on diversity results in action, not just talk.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks in St. Louis on Thursday June 9. The governor appointed three new members to the University of Missouri Board of Curators on Wednesday.
Bill Greenblatt I UPI

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon expects the three new members of the University of Missouri System Board of Curator to hit the ground running on an important task: choosing a new president.

Nixon appointed Mary Nelson, Thomas Voss and Jon Sundvold to the board last week. As St. Louis Public Radio’s Dale Singer reported, the interim appointees can take office immediately, without confirmation by the Missouri Senate and can serve until Nixon’s successor takes office next year.

Gov. Jay Nixon appointed three people to the University of Missouri Board of Curators, pictured from left: Mary Nelson, Jon Sundvold and Tom Voss
Provided by the governor's office

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.

Mary Nelson
St. Louis Community College

In recent weeks, the Missouri Senate has considered the nomination of four lawyers to be members of the University Missouri Board of Curators, but only three of them won confirmation.

The fourth, Mary Nelson of St. Louis, was rejected by a committee vote. State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said that if she joined the board, that would mean that eight of nine curators – all but David Steward of St. Louis – would be lawyers. He said that would be too many members from one profession.