The “interim” is definitively gone from his title: As of Oct. 16, Clifton M. “Clif” Smart III is the 11th president of Missouri State University.
Smart served as interim president for 16 months before officially being chosen for the post. He was one of two presidential candidates who interviewed in early October on campus. The other finalist was Dr. Randy J. Dunn, president of Murray State University in Kentucky, who withdrew Oct. 15.
—Gordon Elliott, chair of the Board of Governors
Smart was introduced as the new president in a ceremony Oct. 16 in the Plaster Student Union Theater.Gordon Elliott, chair of the Board of Governors, told attendees about the search process: “In the end, the Board believed that the 16-month experience the University had with Clif Smart was so positive and productive that it didn’t want to change direction or lose momentum. In many ways, it was the equivalent of a 16-month intense 24/7 job interview.“Based on his performance during that time, we believe President Smart will lead the University well for many years to come.”
Smart, who comes from the legal profession, joined Missouri State as general counsel on Dec. 1, 2007. He was named interim president June 27, 2011, when Dr. James E. Cofer Sr., the 10th president, announced plans to return to the faculty.
Smart signed a contract that runs through June 30, 2018, with a first-year salary of $275,000. He also will receive a housing allowance of $40,000 per year in recognition of the events that will be hosted in the home, and he will retain presidential memberships to Hickory Hills Country Club and The Tower Club.
During the naming ceremony, Smart announced that he and his wife, Gail, would donate the $40,000 housing allowance to the Missouri State Foundation to set an example of giving back.“To show my commitment to the University,” Smart said, “earlier this morning we created the Gail and Clif Smart Professorship in Agriculture ($30,000 per year for 10 years) and wrote a check for $10,000 to support Tent Theater in its 50th year of operation and join the 50 for the 50th Fund.“We wanted to support our William H. Darr School of Agriculture because of the great research it is doing at the research campus in Mountain Grove; because I support improving faculty salaries and this is one of our strongest departments, but has no endowed faculty positions; because the School of Agriculture has grown in enrollment and, therefore, needs additional resources; and because I wanted to honor my grandfather, who is one of the people I pattern my life on – the original Clifton Smart – and who farmed cotton in Mississippi County, Ark., for 60-plus years.”
In a radio interview aired Oct. 19 on KSMU, President Smart — who has served on a number of civic and nonprofit boards — said he is glad he already knows campus and community leaders because it allows him to get to work more quickly on his goals.
Among those goals: Telling the Missouri State story.
“I don’t think people around (some) parts of the state know how good some of our programs are, some of our faculty are, what kind of undergraduate research we’re doing, what kind of cutting-edge research we’re doing, that students get to take classes from real professors,” he said during the KSMU interview.
He wants to take his message around the state and beyond to potential students, education groups, Chambers of Commerce, community colleges and more — and especially to areas that may be unfamiliar with Missouri State.He is also going to ask campus leaders to take a fresh look at academics and administration to see where improvements or changes are needed to best serve and recruit students.He hopes to remain at MSU for a long time.
“Gail and I are excited to take on the leadership of the University permanently,” Smart said at the Oct. 16 ceremony. “I’ve challenged our folks to think bigger and bolder so this University becomes what we all want it to be as we truly grow into our name. I want to thank the search committee and the board for their confidence in me, and I look forward to working with the board and our faculty, staff, students and alumni for many years to come.”