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Jay Gogue talks to faculty and staff at an open forum at the Montgomery campus of Auburn University on Thursday.
AP photo by Mickey Welsh
Jay Gogue talks to faculty and staff at an open forum at the Montgomery campus of Auburn University on Thursday.

Auburn board OKs Gogue as president

By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer

AUBURN — Jay Gogue, the president of the University of Houston, was the unanimous choice of trustees Thursday to be president of Auburn University, where he earned two degrees in horticulture before joining higher education's executive ranks.

Gogue, 59, a native of Waycross, Ga., who has been system chancellor and president at Houston since 2003, previously was president of New Mexico State University and provost of Utah State.

He will become Auburn's 18th president effective July 16.

The board appointed President Pro Tem Earlon McWhorter to negotiate compensation with Gogue and report back at its next meeting. Current President Ed Richardson makes $500,000 a year.

Gogue (pronounced "Goozh") was the lone finalist recommended by a search committee and his selection was expected.

Speaking earlier Thursday at Auburn's Montgomery campus, Gogue said he wanted the job partly because of "a deep abiding love" for Auburn University.

He replaces Richardson, who took the job on an interim basis, and later was named president, after William Walker resigned in 2003. Under Richardson, Auburn was removed from academic probation by its accrediting organization, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

It had been placed on probation partly because of charges that the trustees had too much control over day-to-day operations at Auburn.

Gogue said he wasn't worried about criticism of Auburn trustees trying to micromanage the president and university.

"At every university I've been at, people have raised questions about the relationship between the president and board of trustees. It's not unusual to hear that sort of thing and it's not something I've given much thought to," he said.

Gogue spent the last two days meeting with faculty, students and trustees. He also had a 45-minute meeting with Gov. Bob Riley, who praised the board's selection.

"I think he's almost a perfect match for Auburn. He has great people skills and one of the most impressive resumes I have ever seen," said Riley, who attended Thursday's board meeting.

Trustee Charles McCrary, the chairman of the search committee, traveled with Gogue as he visited the school's campuses in Auburn and Montgomery.

"I was amazed at how he was able to handle every question with confidence and with facts," said McCrary, president of Alabama Power Co. "He's very relaxed, very easy going and very sincere."

Improving research

Answering questions from AUM students earlier Thursday, Gogue said he hopes to be able to teach a class while also serving as president and that one of his priorities will be improving the university's research efforts.

That was good news to trustee Dwight Carlisle, former state revenue commissioner.

"That tickles me to death," Carlisle said. "I'm glad he wants to get research off the ground and find out what needs to be done."

Gogue was asked how he would deal with Auburn's two campuses — the traditional campus at Auburn and AUM, which is more of a commuter campus where many of the students are older.

"The goal is to make each university as strong as possible," Gogue said.

Asked about his leadership style, Gogue said it's focused on "making others succeed."

"You have to help people help themselves," he said.

Gogue emphasized the importance of a college education. He said each day in college adds about $2,000 to how much a student can earn over a lifetime. He credited Auburn with his success as a college administrator, saying he did poorly his first year as a student and came close to having to leave school because of academics.

"The faculty went beyond the call of duty to help a little kid from rural Georgia," Gogue said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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