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UNM Has Its New President

By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer
    Regents on Saturday named Oklahoma State University President David Schmidly as the next president of the University of New Mexico.
    Schmidly's experience as president of two major research universities made him the clear choice to lead UNM, regents said. He previously served as president of Texas Tech University.
    "He's the only candidate in which you get a complete package," Regent Mel Eaves said, adding that Schmidly had the right mix of fundraising ability, academic scholarship and leadership.
    "He will not require any on-the-job training," Eaves said.
    UNM plans to pay Schmidly a compensation package worth about $580,000 a year, though the contract is yet to be finalized, Eaves said.
    "He's a really outstanding president for the university, and, in order to get somebody really good, you have to pay for it," Eaves said.
    Regent Raymond Sanchez said Schmidly matches UNM's expectations.
    "He fit the bill," Sanchez said. "He has run a major, comprehensive research institution with a med school. He's an all-around person."
    Oklahoma State has a school of osteopathic medicine and an osteopathic hospital.
    Schmidly, 63, said Saturday he plans to start work at UNM no later than June 1. Before then, he will form a transition team of UNM employees to plan his first days as president.
    "I want to come to New Mexico with a complete plan for what I want to get accomplished in the first 100 to 125 days," he said in a phone interview Saturday. "We will be way ahead of the curve the day I start."
    Schmidly said he plans to start with a series of meetings with alumni, community leaders and faculty. "I want to have all that organized before I arrive so I have a full schedule," he said.
    Schmidly succeeds Louis Caldera, who resigned in January 2006 amid tension with the regents after leading the university since May 2003. Caldera's compensation package was worth about $323,000.
    Andrea Shafer, 21, an Oklahoma State student visiting UNM on Saturday, said "Schmid" has a good reputation among students.
    "He's cool," said Shafer, who was visiting UNM for a band function. "He's someone who is casual with students. He's at basketball games, football games; he's just everywhere."
    Schmidly bested four other finalists for the job.
    Evangeline Trujillo, chairwoman of the New Mexico Hispano Roundtable, said Saturday she was disappointed that regents did not select Dan López, president of New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, whom the Roundtable had endorsed.
    "We really feel it was an opportune time to have as president of UNM a capable, competent person from within the New Mexico network," Trujillo said.
    Still, she said the Roundtable looks forward to working with Schmidly to increase minority hiring at UNM.
    Schmidly promised in his public forums to form a division of institutional diversity at UNM, headed by a vice president for minority affairs, to increase women and minority hiring.
    Sanchez, who chaired UNM's presidential search committee, said UNM had sought a woman or ethnic minority.
    But as an alternative, regents sought a president who understands and appreciates New Mexico culture. Schmidly met that qualification, he said.
    "He has ties to New Mexico. He knows the Southwest," Sanchez said.
    Schmidly has a home in Placitas and a son and other family members in Albuquerque. He is a native of Levelland, Texas, about 50 miles from the New Mexico border.
    On Tuesday, about 60 faculty members expressed mixed feelings about Schmidly at a general meeting. Fewer than half of that group voted in favor of Schmidly in a show of hands. UNM has 840 faculty members on the main campus.
    Faculty at that meeting endorsed finalist Meredith Hay, vice president for research at the University of Iowa, by unanimous vote. They also gave strong support for Robert McGrath, senior vice president for research at Ohio State University.
    The fifth finalist was Herman Lujan, provost of California State University, Los Angeles.
    Regents President Jamie Koch said evaluation forms collected at campus forums show a different story. The forms asked UNM employees and students to check boxes indicating support for, or opposition to, each finalist.
    The forms indicated that 71 percent of faculty said they support Schmidly, either fully or with some reservations, according to the regents' data. UNM's deans, vice presidents and health science administrators all showed 100 percent support for Schmidly.
    "The numbers are compelling," Eaves said. Members of the presidential search committee also strongly supported Schmidly, he said. "What's striking about this process is the unanimity of this decision."
    Paul Roth, executive vice president of health sciences, said Schmidly oversaw an osteopathic hospital at Oklahoma State that faces many of the same challenges as UNM Hospital, such as a large number of uninsured and low-income patients.
    "He's got a great deal of insight into the challenges that we all face," Roth said.
    During his forum with faculty Tuesday, Schmidly faced harsh questioning from several faculty members over a 2003 sex discrimination lawsuit filed by a Texas Tech law professor.
    The lawsuit was later dropped. Schmidly has denied any wrongdoing.
    Peter White, dean of University College, said UNM's 15 deans and two associate provosts were unanimous in their support for Schmidly after they had considered the allegations.
    "It was a relatively quick and easy decision given the depth of his experience," White said. "It wasn't a tortuous debate among the deans."
    Several people Saturday called for critics to give Schmidly their support.
    "The vast majority of people believed (Schmidly)," Sanchez said. "I hope the people who had those concerns would put it behind them."
    Ed DeSantis, a UNM professor, said everyone at UNM will benefit if Schmidly has a successful presidency.
    "I hope the people who opposed him just give him a chance," DeSantis said. "You should let him start with a clean slate."
    UNM freshman Michael Westervelt, 19, said he hopes Schmidly can bring some of Oklahoma State's active fraternity life to UNM.
    UNM student Katryn Fraher said few students were able to participate in the candidate forums because they were held late in the afternoon.
    "There should have been a lot more information given to students," Fraher said. "They don't really give students much of a chance to have a voice."
David Schmidly President and system CEO at Oklahoma State University
    AGE: 63
    BACKGROUND: Joined Oklahoma State in January 2003; president of Texas Tech University, 2000-03; vice president for research and graduate studies at Tech, 1996-2000; Texas A&M University, biology and zoology professor and administrator, 1971-96.
    ANNUAL COMPENSATION AT OKLAHOMA STATE: Total compensation of $483,000, including $276,000 base salary, $75,000 in deferred compensation, $75,000 guaranteed bonus, $32,000 in retirement pay, and $25,000 car allowance.
    EXPECTED ANNUAL COMPENSATION AT UNM: Total compensation of $580,000, including $380,000 base salary; $120,000 in deferred compensation; a $45,000 housing allowance; and a $35,000 car allowance.