ST. LOUIS — The University of Missouri turned to a familiar face from a rival SEC school to replace its retired chancellor, selecting a bow-tie wearing Texan who led one of the country's largest universities.
R. Bowen Loftin, former president of Texas A&M University, succeeds Brady Deaton, who retired in November after overseeing the flagship campus in Columbia since 2004 and spending six years as its provost. Missouri announced Loftin's hiring Thursday. He will earn $450,000 annually — a slight increase from his salary as Aggie president — but work without a contract.
Missouri system President Tim Wolfe called the 64-year-old physicist a "dynamic leader ... to take our university to new heights."
The native Texan stepped down as Texas A&M's president in July after leading his alma mater for four years. He had planned to remain in College Station to direct an academic institute focused on homeland defense and bioterrorism in the university's engineering college.
At the time, Loftin cited an interest in returning to the "front lines of the academy" and working more closely with students, but he said Thursday that the opportunity to lead another prominent public research university was too good to pass up.
"What do I want to do going forward the rest of my life?" Loftin said, explaining how he reached his decision after a recruiter reached out on Missouri's behalf about two months ago. "Will it be something that impacts a few students, or literally thousands of students?
"I would not have even responded to many places," he said at a campus introduction in Columbia, clad in his trademark bowtie, this one gold with black spots, his new school colors. "Mizzou is so special in so many ways."
He said that was confirmed last weekend while visiting Columbia to watch the two schools in a football game won by Missouri in what he called "one of the friendliest receptions I've received at an away game during my lifetime."
Loftin was born in Hearne and grew up in Navasota, Texas, two small towns less than 30 miles from Texas A&M, where he earned an undergraduate degree in physics in 1971. He received his doctorate in physics from Rice University in Houston and taught computer science and electrical engineering at the University of Houston and Old Dominion University in Virginia.
More recently, he spent four years as the vice president and chief executive officer of Texas A&M's branch campus in Galveston.
Loftin said he first visited Columbia 40 years ago as a young researcher at Missouri's research nuclear reactor, the largest of its kind on a U.S. college campus. He worked closely with Deaton and Missouri athletic director Mike Alden when Texas A&M and Missouri decided to leave the Big 12 Conference in 2011 and join the Southeastern Conference a year later.
The schools share more than just athletic affiliations. Both are members of the Association of American Universities, which represents 62 top public and private research institutions. Both trace their roots to the 19th century as land-grant universities, and both are teeming with students: close to 35,000 at Missouri, and more than 56,000 at Texas A&M.
While his employment is at will, Loftin said he gave Wolfe, his new boss, a minimum commitment of five years and hopes to "stay here for a long time."
According to salary details released by Missouri, Loftin will also earn $50,000 annually in deferred compensation but must remain on the job for at least three years to qualify. He will receive $135,000 as a "hiring incentive" to cover moving expenses and the loss of his unvested deferred compensation in Texas, plus up to $45,000 for relocation expenses.
Texas A&M earlier agreed to pay Loftin an $850,000 severance when he announced his retirement.
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