Lincoln University President John Moseley has been ready to drop the interim title for the past eight months.
"I have operated since day one as if I would be the candidate," the former athletic director and head basketball coach said. "I just felt it was the only way to go about being interim with an interest in pursuing the full-time position."
The Lincoln University Board of Curators offered Moseley the president position Friday. He had been serving as interim president since May 2021.
While interim, Moseley steered efforts to restructure scholarships to a sliding scale, eliminate student balances ahead of the semester and boost enrollment with more active admissions recruiting in historically high-yielding areas.
He said he wants to continue building on those priorities, pushing the university to continue to focus on enrollment and retention, as well as taking care of faculty and staff, and building relationships with alumni and the Jefferson City community.
"It's go time," Moseley said. "It's time for us to restore Lincoln. We know that we got work to do from an enrollment standpoint, but all I know to do is roll up my sleeves and get to work."
Stacy Landis, LU student government president, said the university has flourished under Moseley's leadership.
"In the last eight months, I've seen more progress here at Lincoln than I have in three years of being here," Landis said.
He praised the administration's focus on mentoring students and activating the campus community to be more involved.
"It just feels like that home feeling again," he said. "It's been a good eight months so far."
Moseley said he wants to continue to see Lincoln University help students achieve success in their field in whatever way it can.
The former coach also understands the value of his team. He said many faculty and staff have grown and stepped into leadership roles, and there's been a more general resurgence of commitment and involvement.
"I've said from day one, our students are the most important thing at the university, but we have to take care of our faculty and staff," he said. "And if we're successful in doing so, they'll take care of our students."
The university has a couple key administrative positions currently open and was waiting until a new president was selected to choose candidates. Moseley said Lincoln has started collecting applications, but he didn't want to get too involved in the process without knowing if he would be president.
Board of Curators President Victor Pasley said Moseley has been hugely successful in his time at Lincoln, not only advancing major projects in athletics but also influencing the direction of the university as a member of the cabinet.
He said he's excited to support Moseley into the future.
"I'm extraordinarily excited about it because I think he's going to be a transformational leader," Pasley said. "And we're going to get behind him in that regard to ensure that he has all the tools and all the support he needs to be successful."
Moseley was chosen through the Board of Curators' long-term search process that gained traction with the hiring of Greenwood/Asher and Associates last fall. The private executive search and consulting firm helped identify 235 contacts -- 27 of which applied -- and is also helping the university identify candidates for the open vice president for academic affairs and provost position. In total, the contract will cost the university roughly $135,000.
A search committee made up of curators, faculty, staff, students and alumni narrowed the field of 27 to a top three, who were invited to privately tour campus and Jefferson City, Pasley said.
The university didn't conduct candidate forums as it has in the past because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
Curator Richard Popp said the university's search committee worked long and hard, resulting in a thorough search.
"I'm just so impressed with how that process turned out," he said.
Pasley said the Board of Curators had an obligation to the institution, students, faculty, staff and alumni to conduct a rigorous search for candidates, and they couldn't initially be sure Moseley was the best selection before doing a search.
But his almost eight years of experience with Lincoln University and his understanding of the campus culture set him ahead of the other candidates, Pasley said. In the time it would take for someone new to develop relationships and a firm grasp on the university, Moseley could make substantial progress in ongoing efforts, he explained.
"He's still growing, he's still thriving, he's still moving the university forward. But we had to go through this process and make sure this is the right answer for Lincoln University," Pasley said.
Moseley said he was honored and humbled to be selected by the board, particularly at this point in the university's history.
A decade-long trend of dwindling enrollment brought a new low of 1,793 students to campus last fall, but the same semester brought renewed relationships between the university, the 62nd & 65th Regiment Legacy Foundation and the Lincoln University Alumni Association after a roughly three-year split, and Lincoln's Law Enforcement Training Academy -- the nation's first police academy at an HBCU -- graduated its first two classes.
Moseley, the university's 21st president, is sure to have a place in Lincoln's history books, too. He's the first white president since Richard Baxter Foster, the first principal of the Lincoln Institute in 1866.
And in the eight months leading up to the eventual job offer, it's come up.
"For those who don't know me, that may pose a challenge," Moseley said. "But I grew up in a community very similar to Lincoln University, from a diversity standpoint, and I'm so thankful for my upbringing. I'm the youngest of three. My parents raised us to love people and judge people for their character, not for the color of their skin, and I've lived that."
Moseley has spent 19 years in higher education, 13 of which have been at historically Black colleges and universities.
As a white man, Moseley said he understands how some Lincolnites could be concerned his presidency would lead to a change to the university's culture, but he has no intention to do so.
"I think if people take the time to simply have a conversation with me, their concerns are typically alleviated," he said.
"I'm simply interested in changing the success of our students, our graduation rates, our retention rates, our enrollment, our involvement in the community, our ability to place students in careers -- that's what my focus is on," he continued.
Nimrod Chapel, president of NAACP Missouri, was present when Moseley was offered the contract and said he would be an asset to the university, Jefferson City and Missouri.
"Lincoln has rarely selected a member of its own family as president. There are times it should have in the past," Chapel said in a news release. "Today is a new day. Lincoln University is indeed returning to its roots."