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Interim no more: Patrick White named Millikin's 15th president

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 11:36 a.m. CDT

DECATUR (MCT) — Never having been an interim college president, Patrick White said he decided the best way to do a good job for Millikin University after arriving July 1 was not to think of himself as an interim.

So he dealt with challenges that came his way but focused on what would be best for the institution two and three years out.

"I tend to think in a relatively long-term fashion," he said.

The university's trustees decided they wanted White to keep doing what he was doing and, during a special meeting Tuesday, elected him as Millikin's 15th president.

"We were very impressed with his leadership and the way he has worked with the faculty, staff and community at large over the past 90 days," Van Dukeman, chairman of the trustees, said Wednesday. "We couldn't be happier."

The feeling is mutual, as White admits he wasn't sure he wanted to take an interim position when first contacted by a consultant in March: "I know my personality, and I was afraid I would get here and fall in love with the place."

He said that's exactly what happened after he discovered Millikin's commitment to performance learning is more than a branding slogan.

"Students here learn they don't have to wait 30 to 35 years to do something interesting," White said. "They can make a difference now."

White, 64, succeeds Rich Dunsworth, Millikin's former vice president of enrollment, who took over as interim president through April when former president Harold Jeffcoat retired in January after 21 months in office.

The last time Millikin trustees went outside the university for an interim president was when they hired R. John Reynolds, a retired college president living in Michigan, to bridge the gap between Thomas Flynn's departure in 2002 and Douglas Zemke's arrival in 2003.

White was president of Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind., for the previous seven years and had successfully completed a Challenge of Excellence Campaign, exceeding the $60 million goal by $8 million. Millikin's "Transform MU" capital campaign is in the process of raising an $85 million goal by Dec. 31, 2015.

That and serving as acting vice president of academic affairs while conducting a search to fill the position are among White's priorities. The vacancy was created at the end of the last academic year after Barry Pearson decided to resign from the position and return to the faculty.

"I was convinced long ago Millikin would be an interesting place to work," White said. "It's just going to be an interesting place to work for longer than a year." ___ (c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

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