Univ. of Missouri names top lawyer as interim chancellor

COLUMBIA (AP) — The University of Missouri is again turning to its top lawyer as a temporary campus leader.

University System President Tim Wolfe on Monday named general counsel Steve Owens as interim chancellor of the flagship campus while the search for Brady Deaton’s successor continues. Owens was previously the interim system president for 13 months after Gary Forsee’s January 2011 resignation. He returned to his job once Wolfe took over in February 2012.

Deaton is stepping down on Nov. 15 after nine years as chancellor but will remain in Columbia as executive director of a new international development research center bearing his name. Wolfe had previously said he hoped to have a permanent successor in place before Deaton’s departure.

Wolfe also appointed Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton as transition executive to help ease the next chancellor into the job. The president said neither Owens nor Middleton is a candidate for the permanent position.

“Our search for a new chancellor at MU remains on schedule, and I am confident we will get an excellent candidate out of our process,” the university president said in a written statement. “In the meantime, it is imperative that the daily operations of the university continue to run smoothly, and I am confident that Steve Owens and Mike Middleton will use their experience to provide leadership that will maintain the university’s momentum during the transition period.”

The university has hired an executive search firm to help recruit candidates and narrow the field to a handful of finalists who will then be interviewed by an 18-member advisory committee representing faculty, staff, alumni and students. That group is led by curator Ann Covington, a former state Supreme Court judge, and Dean Mills, dean of the Missouri School of Journalism.

The confidential search is being led by Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates of suburban Los Angeles.

Owens, 58, is a Kansas City native and 1977 graduate of the Columbia campus. He worked in private practice in Kansas City before joining the university as its general counsel in 2008. As a sports law specialist, Owens’ clients included former Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart during a 1990 investigation of the Tigers’ program.

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