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SOU vice president steps down

Saying his departure has nothing to do with Southern Oregon University's budget crisis and cutbacks, Executive Vice President and Provost Earl Potter announced he is leaving to become president of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.

Potter, the No. 2 person at SOU, was passed over for the job of president when Mary Cullinan was named in June amid much disappointment from Potter's supporters, especially in the business community. He will stay on at SOU for three months, helping ready the school for its 10-year accreditation process, and take his new post July 1.

"I just turned 60 last fall and it's time to do this," said Potter, who in his four years at SOU was noted for bringing the school into partnership with the regional economy and business community. St. Cloud, he added, wants him to work on the same focus there.

Potter said it had become apparent that it was "unlikely" he'd be able to step up to a university presidency in Oregon.

Cullinan expressed gratitude for Potter's "strong leadership through the budget reduction process and in the accreditation self-study process."

Lynn Green, interim vice president for marketing and public relations said Potter's departure was "no surprise" to the campus community," as "he's been looking to be president of a university for several years. We've known it was really time for him to be a president. It isn't related to the budget problems."

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Chancellor James H. McCormick named Potter to the post, according to its news release. The state Board of Trustees is expected to approve the nomination Wednesday, Potter said.

McCormick said, "He brings an impressive track record of experiences and accomplishments that demonstrates he is the right person to lead St. Cloud State University in these challenging and exciting times."

St. Cloud, a university with four times the enrollment of SOU, is that system's largest university. It has 175 programs of study and is noted for its business college, according to outgoing President Roy Saigo, writing on the school's Web site.

Potter said, "It's a great opportunity to lead an exciting university with lots of potential for the future. President Cullinan has got SOU firmly in hand. When she shared her final plan for budget reduction, it was the beginning of a lot of work, building committee structures and processes for the faculty to realize its dreams."

When he was brought in by SOU President Elisabeth Zinser, Cullinan's predecessor, he was assigned to make the school more relevant to the regional business community and extend opportunities for students to engage in that community, Potter said. He pointed to community-based learning and a new grant-supported director of service learning as milestones on that expansion.

"In the past year, I've worked with President Cullinan, helping her get her feet on the ground, and I can leave in good conscience," Potter said.

Potter has been dean of the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University; dean of the School of Management at Lesley University; director for organizational development and employment services at Cornell University; associate dean for academics at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; a fellow for the American Council on Education in the Office of the Chancellor at the University of Colorado; and chief negotiator for management and head of the Department of Economics and Management at the U. S. Coast Guard Academy.

Potter served in the Coast Guard from 1969 to 1993, achieving the rank of captain. He has a Ph.D. in organizational psychology and a master's degree in psychology, both from the University of Washington; and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Williams College.

is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.