Outgoing OSU President Draws Praise, Criticism

Sunday, February 18th 2007, 2:24 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ Outgoing Oklahoma State University President David Schmidly will be a tough act for his successor to follow, a member of the school's regents said.

The University of New Mexico Board of Regents announced Saturday afternoon it had selected Schmidly over five other candidates to become president of that school.

``He has seemingly liked his time here, and he has taken us to new heights,'' said OSU Regent Lou Watkins of Stillwater. ``It will be difficult to replace him.''

Officials will write an official job description and figure out how best to distribute it during an upcoming regents meeting, Watkins said.

Schmidly, 63, was named Oklahoma State's 17th president in November 2002 after heading Texas Tech University for two years. During his time in Stillwater, Schmidly has focused on fundraising, economic development and increasing diversity.

He headed the multimillion dollar athletic village project, part of a donation from OSU alum Boone Pickens. The Texas oilman initially donated $70 million in 2003, the largest donation ever to a public university in Oklahoma. Since then, Pickens' contributions have grown to $165 million.

Oklahoma State men's basketball coach Sean Sutton said Schmidly was ``tremendous for the athletic department, always extremely supportive about it, comes in the locker room after every game and always encourages our players to come by and see him.

``He always has been unbelievably supportive and the best president that I've ever had the fortune of being around,'' Sutton said.

``He understands how important athletics can be to a university, and it's important to him. He sees what it can do overall for the university. He's been good to me, and I appreciated everything that he's done for us since he's been here.''

But Schmidly's tenure isn't free of controversy.

The athletic village project required homeowners and renters living in a neighborhood located north of Boone Pickens Stadium to move. Initial opposition from some of the owners melted away as the university paid above-market value for the modest homes, many rented by students. One homeowner continues to hold out and has taken his fight against the university to court.

OSU political science professor Bob Darcy said even with Schmidly's achievements, he doesn't believe the university will be sad to see him go.

``Like when he left Texas Tech, there will not be a huge outpouring of regret that we're losing him,'' Darcy said Saturday. `But with all his weaknesses, he has accomplished many things.''

Darcy noted that Schmidly is the first OSU president to admit the university is not the educational institution it could be and the first to address problems of racism on campus.