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SOU names fourth president finalist

Junius Gonzales, a provost and tenured professor at the New York Institute of Technology, will visit Ashland and Medford Oct. 25 and 26.
Junius Gonzales, provost and vice president for academic affairs and tenured professor at New York Institute of Technology. Photo courtesy of SOU

A provost and tenured professor at the New York Institute of Technology is the fourth finalist to be named as a candidate for president of Southern Oregon University.

The school announced in a news release Friday that Junius Gonzales is scheduled to visit SOU’s Ashland and Medford campuses Oct. 25 and 26.

Gonzales, a self-described first-generation son of Hispanic immigrants, is the first person of color among the four presidential finalists announced so far. SOU is withholding each of the five candidates’ names until about 24 hours before their visit to campus.

An opportunity for the general public to meet and ask questions of Gonzales is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25, in Room 151 of the Science Building on SOU’s main campus in Ashland. The event will be open to a limited number of people, but anyone can watch the proceedings virtually at https://sou.zoom.us/j/85361566040.

That day, Gonzales will go into closed-door interviews with the SOU Board of Trustees and have dinner with them.

On Tuesday, he will visit the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford, and meet with community stakeholders and have lunch with members from a variety of SOU boards.

According to news reports, SOU is not Gonzales’ first president finalist rodeo. He was a candidate for president at the University of Houston-Downtown in 2020 and Miami Dade College in Florida, but he reportedly withdrew from the latter due to what he called “unforeseen circumstances.”

Gonzales serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs at New York Institute of Technology, where he is also a tenured professor in the department of biological and chemical sciences. New York Institute of Technology is a private four-year institution enrolling 8,000 students throughout two campuses in New York (New York City and Long Island), with others in Jonesboro, Arkansas; Vancouver, B.C.; China; and Abu Dhabi.

Gonzales earned a bachelor’s degree from Brown University, an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a master’s degree in business administration from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.

Gonzales’ prior posts in higher education include senior vice president for academic affairs and interim president at University of North Carolina; provost and tenured professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Texas at El Paso; and founding dean and tenured professor in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida.

Gonzales also spent considerable time in the Washington, D.C. region, including as an administrator at the National Institute of Mental Health — a unit of the National Institutes of Health — and as professor at both George Washington and Georgetown universities.

Gonzales has earned numerous awards, including ones during Hispanic Heritage Month. In 2019, the Town of Oyster Bay on Long Island recognized him among the outstanding individuals who have had a profound impact on the town. Gonzales was also recognized as a role model to others in the community and named as the Hispanic Education Advocate of the Year at the fifth annual Nassau County Legislature Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

Gonzales’ visit to the Rogue Valley comes after three other presidential finalists have visited campus: Chris Gilmer, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg; Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of the Montana University System; and Curtis Bridgeman, the Roderick and Carol Wendt Professor of Business Law at the Willamette University College of Law.

The fifth finalist is scheduled to visit campus Oct. 27 and 28, according to SOU.

Danny Santos, a member of the SOU Board of Trustees and the president search committee, has said the board could make a decision on who the next president will be sometime in early November.

That person would replace Linda Schott, who became SOU president in 2016 and announced this past spring she would retire by the end of the year.