Change At The Top

The past seven days have been a period of great transition for West Virginia University. On Friday, the transition continued as Mike Garrison was named as WVU's next president.

Garrison, 38, holds two degrees from WVU including a degree from the College of Law. Most recently, he has been the managing member of Spillman Thomas and Battle PLLC's Morgantown office. A former chief of staff and tax and revenue secretary for former Governor Bob Wise, Garrison will take over as president in September.

Garrison and his wife, Heather, live in Morgantown with their two daugthers.

"Heather and I are deeply honored and truly humbled by the decision today," Garrison told a packed Mountainlair Ballroom this afternoon. "I offer my sincere thanks to the Board of Governors for the confidence that you have placed in me. I pledge to uphold that confidence, and I'm very excited for the challenge."

The BOG approved Garrison by a near-unanimous vote of 16 to one. The lone dissenting vote came from the board's faculty representative. Earlier this week, the University's faculty senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of endorsing Kansas State Provost Duane Nellis, a former Dean of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

Among his goals are to raise faculty and staff salaries to a nationally competitive level, and enhancing WVU's reputation as a research institution.

"We're a global University, make no mistake about it," Garrison said. "We've got folks here on this campus who can compete globally and are as good if not better than any other place in the world. We've got to go and reach out and work with our fine faculty and our staff to recruit and find research money. I will do that."

To reach his goals, Garrison will rely on consensus-building throughout the University and the community.

"I will promote inclusiveness, accessibility and acceptance to each and every member of our faculty, our staff, our students and our community. I pledge to earn your trust, especially the trust of those people who work so very hard to make this University great. And at the end of the day, we must all come together to improve our research capabilities, faculty and staff salaries, and our classroom experience."

Throughout the process, Garrison was criticized by groups and individuals who felt that his youth combined with his lack of experience in the academic world made him unfit and unqualified to be the next president of WVU. Following Friday's vote, Garrison noted that he held no ill will towards those who questioned his qualifications for the job.

"It's a public process," he said. "It's a necessarily public process, and that's what the process is intended to be. The University campus and in particular its president should always be prepared to engage in discourse and dialogue. Folks have been very, very thoughtful. Really, they've discussed things because they care about the University like we do. It's been a wonderful experience."

Seven days ago, new men's basketball coach Bob Huggins talked about coming home. To use the same analogy for Garrison would be somewhat inaccurate because he is a Morgantown resident, but the sentimental message is still the same: he's home.

"Like so many others, West Virginia University gave me – as a first generation college graduate – the tools necessary for success," he said. "Now, as our University's next president, I look forward to putting these tools to work on behalf of this great institution to help West Virginia University reach national prominence.

"West Virginia University has given everything to me, and I am ready and excited to start giving back."

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