ATLANTA (AP) — Just after he was officially hired as the University of Georgia's 22nd president Monday, Jere Morehead announced that a major capital campaign is in the school's future and changes to the university's organizational structure could be on the horizon.
The Georgia Board of Regents quickly voted 18-0 to hire Morehead, who is the current provost and a 1980 graduate of the University of Georgia School of Law. He also as senior vice president for academic affairs. He will start his new job on July 1.
Morehead says he'll assemble a small team to help him transition into the new role after Adams retires at the end of June, and will focus on nurturing relationships with lawmakers, other school presidents, students and alumni.
"I plan to devote much of the next five months to evaluating our strengths and weaknesses now from a different perspective," Morehead said Monday afternoon, adding that he aims to make the university less bureaucratic and more responsive to students and faculty concerns.
"I'm going to spend a great deal of time thinking about the organizational structure of the University of Georgia," he said. "I think in these economic times, you need to demonstrate a belief in a lean machine that gets the job of the university done with as few bureaucratic layers as possible."
Morehead, 56, says it is too early to elaborate on whether tweaking the university's organizational structure could translate to certain positions or offices being eliminated or consolidated. Following the announcement Monday, Morehead said his short-term goal is to help the school hire qualified deans for several vacant positions and continue attracting top-tier students. Morehead Monday also emphasized the importance of focusing on the school's academic priorities — including the construction of a center for molecular medicine — and fundraising efforts early during his term as president.
"If I'm a successful president, I will have led us through the largest capital campaign in the history of the University of Georgia," he said.
A presidential search committee named Morehead as the sole finalist for the position last week. In mid-December the committee, headed by attorney and former state lawmaker Larry Walker, announced the field had been narrowed to nine candidates — five of whom were college presidents.
"When it came down to it, the goal always was — whether an inside candidate or an outside candidate — we wanted the best person," said University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby. "Our students will be in excellent hands under his leadership," he said. "Jere will bring the vision and energy essential to UGA advancing its land grant mission."
Aside from his position as provost, Morehead also serves as vice chairman of the Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors, vice chairman of the UGA Research Foundation, a UGA Foundation Trustee, and a UGA Real Estate Foundation Trustee. Board of Regents Chairman William "Dink" H. NeSmith Jr. praised Morehead for his dedication and passion to the university and its students.
"He has tremendous challenges ahead and the board will support him as he works to strengthen UGA's programs," NeSmith said. When Morehead was named provost in 2009, Adams praised him for his integrity and institutional knowledge of the university.
"The learning curve is very, very small," NeSmith said. "He knows the University of Georgia from the athletics, to academics to student life."
Morehead's annual salary has been set at $450,000, and he says he plans to announce an interim provost to take his place after the transition.
"Becoming President of the University of Georgia is a dream come true for a UGA graduate who has spent more than half of his life on this campus," Morehead said in a statement.