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SOU names first of five president finalists

Chris Gilmer, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg, will come to campus for interviews Oct. 14 and 15

The president of a university in West Virginia was named Wednesday as a finalist for president of Southern Oregon University.

Chris Gilmer, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg — tied to West Virginia University, while not considering itself a regional campus — is the first of five candidates to visit the valley, scheduled for Oct. 14 and 15.

Gilmer’s name came from a pool of 12 applicants that the 18-member president search committee — led by SOU alumnus Danny Santos — interviewed over several weeks.

“As the board and search committee chair, I am grateful to the presidential search committee for their donations of time and expertise to the process of identifying five highly qualified leaders as finalists for the position of university president for SOU,” Santos said in a prepared statement. “Our extensive, inclusive search process has led us to five distinguished finalists who will have the opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications to be the next president of SOU. Each would be an outstanding choice to advance the mission of SOU and lead the university into its next phase.”

SOU told the newspaper it would not allow news media outlets time to interview the finalists. Candidates are being announced no earlier than 24 hours before their visit for confidentiality reasons, the school said.

A glimpse of Gilmer’s leadership philosophy was shared in a statement included in his CV, which stated, in part: “Within the higher education sector—while students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, donors, and community members are all vitally important—a leader has one primary consideration as the basis for every decision: what is best for the students we serve?”

He continued, “serving students is not just a job. It is an honor. It is why we are here, and a higher education leader is a passionate and tireless advocate for students.”

Gilmer’s first day on campus, Oct. 14, will include meetings with the outgoing president, Linda Schott, and her cabinet, student leaders and employee unions, according to a schedule of events post on the SOU website.

The biggest event on that day will be an open forum, held at 3:15 p.m. in Room 151 of the Science Building on SOU’s main campus in Ashland. Only a limited number of SOU students, faculty and staff will be able to attend in person.

But people will be able to view the meeting remotely as it happens and ask questions of the candidate if they choose. To join the webinar, visit: https://sou.zoom.us/j/85828897788.

The evening of Oct. 14, the SOU Board of Trustees will meet in a closed executive session in Ashland to interview Gilmer, first at the Hannon Library and then at the Ashland Springs Hotel. The board will also have dinner with him.

The next day, Gilmer will visit the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center on Riverside Avenue in Medford. Gilmer will tour the facility, meet with SOU community partners, HR representatives, the SOU Foundation Board and the SOU Executive and Audit Committee.

Before becoming president of WVU at Parkersburg in 2018, Gilmer was executive director/chief operating officer of Alcorn State University’s Vicksburg campus; vice president for academic and sponsored programs at a nonprofit agency, Innovative Behavioral Services Inc.; and vice president for academic affairs at Adams State University.

SOU says people can still provide feedback on each of the candidates by visiting sou.edu/presidential-search.

“We are hoping that not only our campus community, but the entire SOU community and its partners throughout the Rogue Valley will get involved in this process and see these candidates,” Santos said in a prepared statement. “We will be seeking valuable feedback from all who engage in these two-day visits, and that input will be very important in the board’s decision-making process.”