Khayat leaving Ole Miss

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

From staff reports

Robert C. Khayat, chancellor of the University of Mississippi for 14 years, will close the book on his quest to make Ole Miss what he described as “a great American public university” June 30.

For more information about Robert Khayat, click here

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“Having reached the ripe old age of 70-plus, it is time for me to retire,” Khayat said this morning. “I do so with a heart filled with gratitude to the thousands of people who support our university. I leave with an abiding affection for the people and the school and with confidence that this university will continue to provide the quality programs so vital to our state and region.”

Amy Whitten, president of the College Board, said board members will accept the news officially at their Jan. 15 meeting. “Dr. Khayat has served the University of Mississippi and the State of Mississippi with distinction.”

Ole Miss, which includes the state’s medical school and public law school under its higher-education umbrella, has been a headline-making institution in recent months, with University Medical Center ranked among the nation’s top 100 hospitals, Ole Miss hosting the first presidential debate and an upset win in the Cotton Bowl last week.

“Robert Khayat is one of the most effective university leaders I have ever known,” said Interim Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas, former president of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Khayat, a former baseball catcher and football kicker on Ole Miss sports teams, was a law professor when named chancellor in 1995. “We were really a relatively unknown state university, but he has made us nationally prominent,” said Provost Emeritus Carolyn Ellis Staton.

Under Khayat’s leadership, two capital campaigns generated nearly $775 million in private support. With that, UM created the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Lott Leadership Institute, Galtney Center for Academic Computing, Ford Center for the Performing Arts and Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, and grew academic and athletics facilities. It also secured a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the prestigious liberal arts honor society.

His tenure was not without controversy. Khayat was held in contempt for an athletic department decision to ban the traditional Colonel Reb costumed character and for being insensitive about race in placement and wording on a statue of James Meredith, the first black student who enrolled at the school.