Outgoing University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Leo Morton will be leaving earlier than expected, UM System President Mun Choi announced Wednesday.
In May, Morton, who has led UMKC since 2008, announced his intention to retire in spring 2018. But on Tuesday, Morton told Choi he would leave in October. Morton has been offered a job as chief operating officer at Kansas City-based DeBruce Companies.
“Morton presided over a period of significant growth in enrollment, the university’s most successful capital campaign, creation of a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion, and a successful campaign to advance UMKC’s Downtown Campus for the Arts,” Choi wrote in an email to UM System employees.
Choi went on to say he would request that the Board of Curators appoint Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer as interim chancellor.
“Provost Bichelmeyer has been here as our chief academic officer for several years now,” UMKC spokesman John Martellaro said. “In a lot of ways, there will be changes in the operations, but not rolling down to the level that it’s going to be noticeable in the classroom.”
Bichelmeyer acknowledged that the transition comes at a time when cuts to higher education funding have created uncertainty for the UM System. More than 200 people were laid off systemwide in May, including 30 at UMKC.
“This is one more major change at a time when we are experiencing significant challenges at UMKC,” Bichelmeyer wrote in an email to staff on Wednesday.
In June, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed legislation that would have provided matching dollars to build a $96 million downtown arts campus after university officials – probably sensing a shift in political winds – announced they would not pursue state funding for the project. UM System Curators are expected to take up alternative funding mechanisms at their meeting next month.
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Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.