Hussey Named Texas A&M's Interim President

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TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY The dean of the Agriculture and Life Sciences college at Texas A&M will serve as the university's interim president.

Mark Hussey, also a vice chancellor, will take the reins of the university following a vote Saturday by the A&M System Board of Regents, which had called a special meeting to discuss the job. The vote was unanimous.

"I am honored to be asked to serve as interim president of Texas A&M University," Hussey said in an email to News 3 Saturday. "I want to thank both the chancellor and the Board of Regents for their confidence and support. I look forward to working closely with faculty, TAMU administration, the chancellor and the Board of Regents as we collectively work to see TAMU recognized as one of the country's best universities."

Hussey will start January 14 when R. Bowen Loftin's tenure as A&M president comes to an end. Loftin announced he was stepping down in July, and has since taken on the equivalent job of chancellor at the University of Missouri.

As reported by the Associated Press, System Chancellor John Sharp says Hussey won't seek the post permanently.

Regent Tony Buzbee said Friday that Sharp was backing Hussey for the interim position. Governor Rick Perry had thrown System Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Guy Diedrich's name into the mix, which angered members of the A&M faculty who thought political influence on the selection process -- both for the interim and the permanent jobs -- had grave implications.

In an email Saturday, Diedrich told News 3 he had withdrawn his name from consideration prior to the regents' meeting.

"I am very pleased for my longtime friend and colleague Dr. Mark Hussey," Diedrich wrote. "He will be an outstanding Interim President and we are fortunate that he has chosen to serve Texas A&M in this capacity. I look forward to continuing what has been a productive and enjoyable relationship for 10 years."

When asked if Governor Perry had any comments on the choice of Hussey, a spokesperson emailed News 3 that it was "a decision for the regents and the chancellor."

The Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education weighed in on the regents' decision Saturday.

"We applaud Chancellor Sharp and the Texas A&M System Board of Regents for choosing academic excellence over politics with today's vote," read a statement. "Dr. Hussey's appointment as interim president of Texas A&M is a win for quality higher education in Texas and we wish him success as he takes the reigns of one of our state's premiere research institutions."

Hussey has led his current college since 2008 when Elsa Murano departed that post to become A&M's president.

After earning a master of science degree and a doctorate in plant breeding at A&M, Hussey -- an Illinois native who earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois -- became an assistant professor at the A&M Weslaco campus in 1983. Two years later, he was back in College Station as an assistant professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences. By 1997, he became a professor, then rose in the ranks of the college's leadership. In 2005, he was named associate director of programs for what is now Texas A&M AgriLife Research.

"Dr. Mark Hussey is a person I greatly respect, and I believe the [Texas A&M University System] Board of Regents made an excellent choice in selecting him to lead Texas A&M University as Interim President," said State Senator Charles Schwertner (R-District 5) in a statement Saturday. "Dr. Hussey's commitment, leadership, and decades of academic achievement make him an ideal choice to lead Texas A&M University. I know he will serve with distinction until the search committee names a permanent selection next year."

Buzbee said Friday he had asked for Saturday's special meeting because he thought there were still a number of questions that needed to be addressed, and that it would be better for a group discussion rather than emails and one-on-one conversations. He said there was no guarantee of a final choice unless questions and concerns were addressed.

A presidential search committee was formed by Sharp in August to find the permanent replacement for Loftin. System officials have maintained a commitment to conduct the search confidentially, and little-to-no information has been released about the process or any progress despite a statement by the System in August that "regular updates will be furnished as the process moves forward."

Korn/Ferry International is leading the search, which is slated to end with one, two or three candidates being provided to regents for consideration.

Loftin was the university's last interim president when he took over following Murano's 2009 resignation. He served as the interim for eight months before the "interim" was removed.