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NMSU Board of Regents names interim president

James McDonough was named interim president by the New Mexico State University Board of Regents Friday morning.

James McDonough has been named interim president of New Mexico State University. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

McDonough, who retired from the university in 2006 as the senior vice president for business, finance and human resources, will be asked to serve as interim president while a national search is launched to find a replacement for Michael V. Martin, who is leaving the university to be chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus of Louisiana State University.

Regents Chair Robert Gallagher indicated that McDonough has said he would accept the position if asked. The university will now pursue negotiating an emergency hire contract with McDonough.

McDonough was nominated for the position by Regent Laura M. Conniff, who said McDonough has "complete working knowledge of the university." Conniff's motion was seconded by Regent Ed Kellum and approved by a vote of 4-1. Regent Steve Anaya was the dissenting vote, saying he would take a different approach and look internally to the university's deans for a potential interim president.

All four of the regents voting in favor of McDonough indicated they agreed there were many internal candidates for the position, but felt McDonough's knowledge of the university's administrative processes, partnered with Executive Vice President and Provost Waded Cruzado's academic leadership, would be a good fit in the interim.

Regent Blake Curtis said he felt it was important for the deans to continue moving their colleges forward and did not want to disrupt that process for any of the colleges.

Regents said they were looking for a person who could immediately step in to move the university forward, has an understanding of academics and will work closely with Cruzado as well as someone who will be able to work closely with New Mexico legislators.

"McDonough is renowned for his financial prowess in Santa Fe," Gallagher said.

As NMSU's lead financial officer, McDonough has more than 15 years of experience in sound budgetary management and innovative improvements in systems and processes during a period of diversification and growth at the university. He has broad experience representing NMSU at the Legislature and as a member of the State Investment Council and the New Mexico Finance Authority. His leadership in the New Mexico Council of University Presidents and through the Higher Education Department to reform the operating and capital funding mechanisms in the state has been seen as a benefit to all of New Mexico's higher education institutions.

Prior to his service to NMSU, McDonough, a certified public accountant, worked at Auburn University as a controller, associate vice president for business and finance and acting vice president.

Since his 2006 retirement, McDonough has served as a consultant to various universities regarding organization, operations and evaluation.

Regent Gallagher also announced Friday that a request for proposals for a national search firm is being issued, and outlined a tentative schedule for the next permanent president of NMSU. It includes having a search firm and search committee in place in July, with the intent to narrow the field to 10 candidates by October. The intent is to have three to five finalists in November and a president named by December.

Regent Conniff encouraged all those interested internally to put their names in the running.