Former University of Akron President Matthew Wilson has been named the fifth president of Missouri Western State University, UA announced in a campuswide email Wednesday.
Wilson's first day at the St. Joseph, Missouri, university with an enrollment of 5,500 students will be July 1.
"Over the past five years, it has truly been an honor serving students, faculty, contract professionals, staff, alumni and community members," Wilson, 48, said in the email of his time at UA. "Working together, we have been able to strengthen and distinguish the University while making a difference in the lives of individuals, families and community members. Personally, I will truly miss being a part of this exceptional institution."
Wilson came to UA in 2014 to be the dean of the law school. Two months after former university president Scott Scarborough stepped down in May 2016 following a tumultuous two-year tenure and calls for his ouster, UA's trustees named Wilson to serve as interim president of the university. The trustees removed the interim tag in October 2016.
In February 2018, the University of Central Florida trustees named Wilson one of four finalists for the president's job at the Orlando school, but in March, they went with the school's provost as president-elect of the school instead.
Less than two weeks later, Wilson announced his plans to step down as president and return to the law school's faculty as of the end of July. In April 2018, UA's trustees named nationally recognized political scientist and longtime political science professor John Green as the university's interim president.
During an interview after he announced his decision to step down as president, Wilson said that he — along with "the collective efforts of everyone on campus" — had stabilized the university's finances and launched initiatives aimed at growing the school, including boosting enrollment, since he was "plucked out of the law school."
Wilson often spoke at gatherings of high school students, traveled to meet with alumni and often engaged with students on campus, with students at the time he announced his decision to step down noting he had "a positive brand with students" and "made himself very available to students."
UA is in the midst of a national search for its next president, its fourth leader since 2014, and is slowing down a proposed major reorganization of some of its colleges. A “Presidential Prospectus” released last month said priorities for the new president include bringing stability to the university while grappling with financial woes, along with defining and communicating “a more distinctive identify for UA.” A review of candidates will begin in June.
Green, who has opted not to be a candidate for the permanent president's job, thanked Wilson for his accomplishments at UA.
“We all appreciate the many contributions that Matt has made to UA, both during his deanship at the School of Law and then as president of the University," Green said in the email. "We wish him, his wife, Noriko, and the rest of the family well as he moves into his new role at Missouri Western. We are confident that he will help elevate that institution as well.”
Wilson will be introduced to the Missouri Western State University campus during a news conference there next week.
“With a long track record in higher education, including previous experience as a university president, Matt Wilson is prepared to serve Missouri Western well,” David Liechti, chair of the Missouri university's Board of Governors, said in a news release. “As we got to know him through the interview process and in talking to people he has worked with, we appreciated his strong commitment to student success and his innovative and creative approach to problem-solving. Under his leadership, Missouri Western will continue to be a crucial part of the economic and cultural vitality of our region.”
Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.