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As OU Board of Regents meetings nears, a look back at OU's 7 interim presidents to date

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Boyd House, the official home of the President of the University of Oklahoma, reflects the sunset Jan. 26. 

After the OU Board of Regents announced a special meeting Thursday night where the selection of an interim president may be considered, The Daily gathered research on past interim presidents and their time in office.

OU’s first interim president was Julien Monnet, founder of the OU College of Law and its dean until 1941. Monnet was appointed after the politically charged removal of former OU president Arthur Grant Evans by the newly formed State Board of Education in 1911, according to “The Sooner Story” by Anne Barajas Harp.

Monnet was a reluctant interim according to the book, serving until the selection of Stratton Brooks in 1912. His short tenure was notable for its assistance to OU law students lobbying for state funding, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The next university president to serve in an interim role was James Buchanan. The OU Board of Regents selected Buchanan as acting president in 1923 following Brooks being forced from office by Oklahoma Gov. John Walton, according to “The Sooner Story.” After the end of Buchanan’s first year, the regents decided to grant him the official title of president, but he did not intend to stay in the position for long, the book said.

Serving until 1925, Buchanan was notable for his work in organization, creating the School of Business as an independent entity and reorganizing the School of Fine Arts into a full college. Buchanan was also responsible for reinstating the Oklahoma Geological Survey, constructing two new buildings for engineering and pharmacy and creating the School of Petroleum Engineering, according to the book.

The resignation of former OU president Joseph Brandt in 1944 led to George Cross’ appointment as interim president. The book said Cross had formerly served as the dean of the OU Research Institute and Graduate College. While originally chosen as an interim appointment, Cross would remain president for 25 years, constructing 37 new buildings and receiving a donation of 1,400 acres from the US Navy to expand OU’s campus.

When J. Herbert Hollomon suddenly resigned from the OU presidency in 1970, Pete Kyle McCarter became the newest interim, according to the book. Serving for a single year, McCarter was previously OU’s first provost under Hollomon. He originally came to campus as an English professor, and was a key player in developing OU’s College of Liberal Studies.

Throughout his term, McCarter focused on continuing the previous president’s designs and encouraging unity as OU searched for a permanent president.

Martin Jischke remains the shortest serving president in OU’s history, serving only from February to September of 1985, according to “The Sooner Story.” The former dean of OU’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering was appointed following William Banowsky’s resignation in December 1984. The book said Jischke’s short tenure was focused on keeping OU moving toward recovery from an economic depression as the regents searched for a permanent appointment.

David Swank became interim president a few years later in 1988 after Frank Horton resigned as OU’s president. With 25 years of experience at OU as a professor, legal counsel and the dean of the OU College of Law, Swank was tasked with rebuilding the strained relationship between the OU Board of Regents and the office of the president, according to “The Sooner Story.”

Swank would handle further athletic scandals until the appoint of Richard Van Horn in 1989, according to the book.

The most recent OU interim, John Morris, served from August to November of 1994. Serving the university during the period prior to Boren’s departure from the U.S. Senate, Morris had previously helped establish OU’s University Scholars Program as assistant dean of University College.

Morris’ eight month tenure mainly included assisting the fundraising campaign for the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and attempting to handle the racial conflict between members of the Native American community at OU and the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

Morris’ handling of the conflict helped grow OU’s current Native American Studies program.

If an interim president is selected Thursday, Senior Vice President and Provost Kyle Harper could be a likely candidate. His position is first in the line of succession should the current president become unable to perform his or her duties as president, according to the OU Regents’ Policy Manual.

Harper is immediately followed in the line of succession by Jason R. Sanders, senior vice president and provost of the Health Sciences Center, and Anil Gollahalli, vice president and general counsel, according to the manual.

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