COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - University of Missouri system President Gary Forsee resigned Friday to care for his wife, who was diagnosed with cancer in December. Forsee has been on an extended leave of absence since then.
School officials emerged from a 90-minute closed meeting at Mizzou Arena to announce the former Sprint Nextel chairman and chief executive's departure. Forsee, 60, had been president of the four-campus system since February 2008.
Steve Owens, the system's general counsel, will continue to serve as interim president until a replacement is chosen. Owens said he is not a candidate for the permanent job.
Forsee's departure comes as state lawmakers return to Jefferson City to wrestle with a budget shortfall expected to result in the university system's first tuition increase in three years. Forsee and Gov. Jay Nixon were the chief architects of plan that froze tuition at Missouri's public colleges and universities for two years in exchange for relatively modest budget cuts in higher education.
"Gary raised the credibility level of the University of Missouri at the state Capitol, and he leaves the system in better shape than when he came in," said state Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.
Warren Erdman, chairman of the university's Board of Curators, credited Forsee with boosting the system's commitment to research and economic development, reorganizing the university health care system and generally bringing a more business-oriented approach to the campuses in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis.