Dr. Steve Scott, once a Pittsburg State student, then teacher, then college dean, then provost, will soon have a new title: Pittsburg State president.

Dr. Steve Scott, once a Pittsburg State student, then teacher, then college dean, then provost, will soon have a new title: Pittsburg State president.

Scott was named president Friday morning by the Kansas Board of Regents in Topeka after a candidate search that lasted almost seven months.

"Pittsburg State is a great place," Scott told the Board after his selection. "I know the tradition and the culture. I will be leading the university in difficult times, and I am aware of those difficult times. But I am ready for that commitment."

Regents reasons

Several members of the Board of Regents voiced their reasoning behind the selection of Scott as the ninth president of Pittsburg State.

Regents Chairwoman Donna Shank said that although the final three candidates were excellent, Scott pulled away from the other candidates.

"I think first, he had administrative experience. He has been the provost," Shank said. "That senior administrative experience is important. Second, he had a vision for what Pittsburg State could be. He was very aware of what the Kansas Technology Center means to Pittsburg State and had a good understanding of the opportunities for growth."

Shank also mentioned that Scott had experiencing working with a collective bargaining agreement, whereas the other candidates did not.

"He also brought such an understanding of the changing environment of higher education, and the implementation of those changes," Shank said.

Regents CEO and president Reggie Robinson, one of the 18 members of the search committee that helped select the final set of candidates, noted that Scott's rise through the ranks of Pittsburg State was both a testament to Scott's abilities and a reason for his selection.

"It was clear that Steve had a combination of demonstrated achievement and escalated responsibility," Robinson said. "He had a demonstrated excellence of achievement in his career as he stepped up to increasing levels of duty. His energy, his vision, his sense of possibility convinced the board of what he'd bring to the position of president."

Janie Perkins, member of the Board, said the seven-month search process lended a great deal to the final hire.

"I think the whole search process was instrumental to our decision making," Perkins said. "I am very appreciative of the whole process. I honestly believe his leadership skills were a factor. All the things he has accomplished, and everything he has to offer came to the top. It wasn't an easy decision because of the quality of the candidates before us, but he was perfect for the position."

The announcement

Before the announcement of the selection, Shank announced thanks to the search committee and search committee chairman Bill Docking.

"We had three excellent, excellent candidates. That is a real tribute to the search committee. They did an excellent job of getting us real quality folks to choose from. They should be commended for the caliber of the candidates they recommended. Any one of the three finalists could have made an impressive and exceptional president at the university. That's the position the board would like to find itself in every time we do this."

The final three candidates (Scott, Dr. Diana Carlin and Dr. Fletcher Lamkin) had been sequestered in a local hotel until roughly 30 minutes before the announcement was made.

"About 30 minutes ago, I was watching an HBO movie, I had no idea what it was, dressed in jeans and thinking I was going to get a call and I'd head home," Scott told the Board of Regents after his selection. "If there is a need to formally accept the position, then I do hereby formally accept."

Legislative response

State Sen. Bob Marshall, R-Fort Scott, said he is "pleased as can be" about the choice of Scott. Marshall noted that Scott is well liked in the community and the campus, adding that if someone polled the people on campus, Scott likely would have been the pick.

"He was my choice all along. He's the perfect person for the job," Marshall said. "He's a bright person. He has the credentials you would expect of a college president. He knows Pittsburg State and everyone there. It's always great to hire from within, I think. he has a great interest and love for PSU. We know we're going to get someone who has a definite love for the university."

Another legislator said she was "tickled" upon hearing news of the selection.

"I think it's very exciting. I figured he'd be in the top two," said Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg. "He's been at PSU for some time. He understands the issues of southeast Kansas. He's an intelligent guy, a good speaker, and very personable.

"I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Scott. He's been pretty involved with the process with Dr. Bryant in the past few years in anticipation of Bryant stepping down at some time. I think he won't miss a beat here. As legislators, we just need to keep from devastating his budget."

Administrative reaction

Three members of the Pittsburg State administration also attended the announcement: Dr. Brad Hodson, vice president for university advancement; Dr. Howard Smith, assistant to the president; and Dr. John Patterson, vice president for administration and campus life.

Hodson said he couldn't be happier with the decision and that he looks forward to working with Scott in a new role.

"I think the Board made a wonderful selection. Steve is a strong, strong candidate," Hodson said. "This will be one of the smoothest transitions we have ever seen. He is so familiar with who we are and where we are headed that it will be a very smooth transition."

Patterson said that beyond Pittsburg State, the decision echoed a strong move for all of higher education in the state.

"It was a wise decision," Patterson said. "This is a decision that is good for Kansas as a whole. He's going to be one of the spokespeople for Kansas higher education as president of Pittsburg State. He will represent us well at those occasions, whether in front of the Legislature, the Board of Regents or nationally."

Finally, Smith, who emceed a celebration of outgoing President Bryant on Thursday, said the decision was a move that puts Pittsburg State in a great position for the years to come.

"It was an outstanding decision to pick someone who will continue to move us forward," Smith said. "It's more about the future than what's currently the situation. Steve has the skills to direct the university in a positive, effective direction for the future."

The candidate's views

After the selection, Scott was talking with Regent Janie Perkins when Hodson offered him a Pittsburg State lapel pin.

Scott said that he had one, but had not been wearing it during the final selection process so as not to sway the board's decision. But more than that, he also noted that his decision not to wear the pin was prompted by a motto around PSU: "Once a Gorilla, Always a Gorilla."

"This is a great country," Scott said. "As a kid in Baxter Springs, I had the opportunity to grow and develop. It's a great story for Pittsburg State. I got two degrees from here and I got started in my teaching career here. I have been supported and mentored by so many great people. Those experiences have prepared me for this position."

There are many challenges yet to face for Scott. The Board of Regents is currently in a waiting game with the Legislature to see how much higher education will be cut in the appropriations bill.

"That's the great unknown at this time," Scott said. "I don't know how deep the cuts will be, and that creates stress throughout the university. There is a lot of competition for higher education students."

The new president also noted that the region of southeast Kansas faces further economic problems. Scott would like to see the university take a more active role in improving the economic condition of the region.

Ultimately, while others were thanking the search committee for their selection of Scott as a great decision, Scott was thanking the search committee for a different reason.

"It means a lot to me, because the search process helped me get ready for the job. I am a better candidate now than when I first started applying for the job," Scott said. "I've been dealing with the constancy of an issue and the pressure, and it has forced me to think more broadly about the institution. I think more about the vision now than everyday tasks. It's elevated my thinking."

Scott was approved to take over Bryant's duties by July 1.

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.