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SOU names fifth of five president finalists

Richard J. Bailey, Jr., who has led Northern New Mexico College for five years, is scheduled to visit SOU Oct. 27 and 28.

The president of a college in New Mexico is Southern Oregon University’s fifth finalist for the job of president, the school announced Tuesday.

Richard J. Bailey, Jr., who has led Northern New Mexico College for five years, is scheduled to visit SOU’s Ashland and Medford campuses Oct. 27 and 28.

Bailey will participate in an open forum at 3:15 p.m. Oct. 27 in room 151 of the Science Building on SOU’s main campus in Ashland. Seating is limited for in-person viewing. However, the event will be streamed live at: https://sou.zoom.us/j/88129788968.

Following the forum, Bailey will go into closed-door meetings with the SOU Board of Trustees, tasked with naming a new president to succeed Linda Schott, who announced she would retire at the end of the year.

On Thursday, Bailey will visit the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center, where he will receive a tour and meet with various university stakeholders and members of a variety of boards.

Bailey was not made available for an interview with news media, consistent with SOU’s policy in this search.

Bailey earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering sciences from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a master’s degree in International Affairs from Washington University in St. Louis, and a doctorate in government from Georgetown University.

Prior to his career in academia, Bailey served in the Air Force, including as an air operations official for NATO, where he oversaw the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan.

At Northern New Mexico College in Española and El Rito, Bailey’s tenure saw increased enrollment by 20% and raises for employees at a time when there had not been any in years.

This year, the school introduced an eight-week Cannabis Establishment Technician course after New Mexico legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older earlier this year. Bailey was also named to the Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee to guide the state on the formation of the state's adult-use cannabis industry.

Like many colleges and universities throughout the country, Northern New Mexico College has had to grapple with COVID-19 precautions, including a coronavirus vaccine mandate.

On that issue, Bailey reportedly clashed with a vice president at a board meeting earlier this year.

According to an article from the Rio Grande Sun, when the board's vice president told Bailey it should be up to the board — not the president — to make vaccine policies for campus, Bailey responded by saying COVID is a “temporary” situation, which doesn’t require a long-term policy.

“This won’t last forever,” he said. “This will be over in two years.”

The vice president disagreed, saying the virus will be around much longer than two years — perhaps five, and therefore necessitates a long-term policy.

The discussion concluded by Bailey ceding control of the vaccine policy to the board, but he stated his wish that its members would incorporate parts of his plan into it.

Bailey is the last in a series of candidates from all over the country who have visited the Rogue Valley over the past few weeks in a bid to succeed Schott, who is retiring after almost five years at the helm of SOU.

The other SOU president finalists are Chris Gilmer, president of West Virginia University at Parkersburg; Brock Tessman, deputy commissioner of the Montana University System; Curtis Bridgeman, the Roderick and Carol Wendt Professor of Business Law at the Willamette University College of Law; and Junius Gonzales, provost and professor at the New York Institute of Technology.