January 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Peru: University Administration: Grand Rapids Press: Leadership by McPherson

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Peru: Special Report: MSU President and Peru RPCV Peter McPherson: January 2, 2005: Headlines: COS - Peru: University Administration: Grand Rapids Press: Leadership by McPherson

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Leadership by McPherson

Leadership by McPherson

Leadership by McPherson

Leadership by McPherson
Sunday, January 02, 2005

The close of M. Peter McPherson's presidency at Michigan State University also ends a remarkable period for MSU and for the state of Michigan. As Mr. McPherson was an energizer and innovator at MSU, he also was a public service leader well beyond the East Lansing campus.

Few people anticipated such results 11 years ago when the MSU Board of Trustees selected Mr. McPherson. He was chosen only after three others withdrew their names and the board deadlocked on a fourth. Turmoil followed announcement of the choice, partly because Mr. McPherson was so unconventional: no doctorate, no background in academe. He was a banker -- executive vice president of the Bank of America -- who had been an administrator in the Republican presidencies of George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

But Peter McPherson was precisely what MSU needed: a leader and big-institution manager of extraordinary skill, a thinker and tireless doer, and a person who knew MSU and cared deeply about the university and the state that it serves.

Mr. McPherson also benefited from having a strong sense for the values and concerns of rural and small-town Michigan. As he often said, "That's where I come from." He had grown up on a fruit and dairy farm seven miles northwest of Lowell, attending a one-room Vergennes Township schoolhouse through eighth grade. He graduated from MSU in 1963, one of eight children of the McPherson family to attend there.

That nearness to his roots was reflected in his commitment to restraining tuition growth, keeping an MSU education within reach of people like the farm boy he had been. Through eight of his 11 years, he kept tuition increases to the rate of inflation.

He managed to find savings in day-to-day campus operations, got employees to pay more of their health-care costs and consolidated overlapping departments. Graduate-school professors and researchers were called upon to teach at least one undergraduate class. Adding night and weekend classes raised revenues and made MSU more accessible.

Grade-point averages of entering freshmen rose from 3.2 11 years ago to 3.6 today. Admission test scores increased, a law school opened on campus, a turbulent athletic department was stabilized and the university became the nation's leader in sending students abroad for study, with some 60 foreign countries in the program. Unfinished projects include efforts to expand the medical school by opening a research arm in Grand Rapids and to bring a federal rare isotope accelerator lab to East Lansing.

Off the campus, Mr. McPherson was a leader in reforming the Lansing Public Schools and chaired state task forces on charter schools and venture capital. He was called upon to monitor a presidential election in Peru and spent five months in Iraq as President Bush's choice to set up new currency, banking and tax systems there.

Through it all, he maintained a commitment to ending world hunger, an effort dating from his Peace Corps service 40 years ago. He returns to that now as chair of an organization he founded five years ago, the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa.

Mr. McPherson is succeeded at MSU by Lou Anna K. Simon. A veteran of 30 years at MSU -- for 11 years provost under Mr. McPherson -- she is widely respected and fully qualified to address the university's ongoing problems and opportunities.

Mr. McPherson has left MSU a stronger place. As the leading figure in Michigan higher education, he also set important examples and standards. Those accomplishments have benefited everyone in the state, and they lay a path to the future.

© 2005 Grand Rapids Press. Used with permission

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Grand Rapids Press

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Peru; University Administration



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