The interim president of the University of Missouri system is a Mizzou alumnus who took part in civil-rights protests a half-century ago, as a student, and later served 30 years in leadership positions at the university before retiring in August. The system’s new leader, Mike Middleton, 68, was appointed by the Board of Curators on Thursday, effective immediately.
He takes office after one of the most tumultuous weeks in the university’s history, in which a hunger strike, a threatened boycott by the flagship campus’s football team, and widespread protests against racism on the campus led, in quick succession, to the resignations of the system’s president and the Columbia campus’s chancellor on Monday. He faces a host of challenges.
Mr. Middleton, who retired on August 31 as deputy chancellor, is a 1968 alumnus who also received his law degree from Missouri, one of the first African-Americans to do so. He worked as a civil-rights lawyer in Washington, D.C., for the Justice Department, the Education Department, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before returning to the university, in 1985, as a law professor.
In a written statement released by the university, Mr. Middleton said he felt honored to lead the system “during this extraordinary time.”
“The time has come,” he continued, “for us to acknowledge and address our daunting challenges, and return to our relentless adherence to the University of Missouri’s mission to discover, disseminate, preserve, and apply knowledge.”
Mr. Middleton’s appointment was praised by some of the student groups whose protests had led to the resignation of Timothy M. Wolfe, his predecessor. According to The Columbia Missourian, graduate students, who had protested a plan to drop their health-insurance subsidies, described him as “uniquely qualified” for the job.
Another protest group, Concerned Student 1950, named for the year Missouri first admitted a black student, said via Twitter: “We are excited for the new leadership under Interim President Middleton!”