Southern Oregon University names interim president

By Steven Dubois, Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 20, 2014 at 3:11 p.m.

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The state Board of Higher Education on Friday appointed Roy H. Saigo as interim president of Southern Oregon University, the Ashland-based school that's cutting academic programs because of budget woes.

Saigo, 73, was president of St. Cloud State University in Minnesota from 2000-2007, and has more recently been a consultant. He's being touted as a turnaround expert by Oregon University System officials. Besides implementing a retrenchment plan that reduces the scope of the university, Saigo will oversee SOU as it and the other six public universities gain independence from the Board of Higher Education by establishing their own governing boards.

Saigo (SY'-goh) replaces Mary Cullinan, who resigned to become president at Eastern Washington University. In March, 63 percent of the Southern Oregon faculty voted that they were not confident in Cullinan's leadership. The vote came weeks after faculty members accepted a labor contract that did not include cost-of-living raises.

"I know these are challenging times, but they also present a unique opportunity to strengthen Southern's role in serving students and the region in effective, creative ways that move us forward toward institutional governance," Saigo said in a statement. "I will work with everyone on campus to listen carefully, renew relationships and reconnect our vision."

Saigo signed a two-year contract for $205,236 a year. His successor will be appointed by the university's independent board, which will be formed over the coming year and assume power next summer.

"Dr. Saigo is absolutely the right guy for this job," Melody Rose, chancellor the Oregon University System, said in a phone interview. "He has a national reputation for stabilizing institutions during difficult transitions or challenging financial environments."

Southern Oregon saw an enrollment spike after the 2008 recession that has not been sustained as the economy recovers. The head count last fall was 6,140 students, down more than 600 from two years earlier. The combination of declining state support, higher retirement costs and fewer students led to budget problems and paltry reserves.

The retrenchment plan that Saigo will put into action cuts more than $6 million from the annual budget and eliminates dozens of positions through layoffs and retirements over the next five years. It also eliminates unpopular majors such as French and art history while reducing other programs.

Rose said the plan improves SOU's financial picture and clarifies its mission and direction.

Saigo has some Oregon ties. He got a Ph.D. in botany and plant pathology from Oregon State University. His wife, Barbara Woodworth Saigo, is a scientist with degrees from Willamette University and Oregon State. The couple met at Oregon State.


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