Frankfort, KY – In September 2007, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Thomas Layzell retired. To fill the post until a permanent replacement was found, the council turned to Lexington lawyer Brad Cowgill, former Governor Ernie Fletcher's budget director. In April, the council voted to retain Cowgill as permanent president, a move that upset the state's new governor, Steve Beshear. After Beshear complained Cowgill was hired without a legally-required national search, Cowgill resigned. Beshear applauded the move saying "it ends a very difficult situation for everybody." "And allows us all to come together move forward, get a search committee up and really do a national search now and find a permanent president."
Eight months later, the search is over. Forty of the 150 people who applied were given a serious look. The field was then narrowed to 10 and later to two. The finalists were Vermont State College Chancellor Robert Clarke and Robert King, the former chancellor of the New York State University System. In a unanimous vote, the council has chosen King. "I appreciate search processes and know that you considered some really terrific candidates from around the country. So, I'm particularly honored that you thought I was worthy of this.
Sixty-one year old King, who currently chairs a charitable foundation in Arizona, officially begins work April 1st. "What I've discovered in the couple of years I've been away from higher ed is how much I miss it and how much I love what it can do for our country. And if I can be a small part of that, that's what I'd like to commit the balance of my working life to, and so I'm thrilled to be here."
King says one of his major goals will be to build better bridges between the K-12 system and the universities.
"To help improve the learning outcomes for kids, so that when they come to the university or to the community colleges, they're ready to go - I think can have an enormous impact. And I think higher education can help in that regard."
Seconding the motion to hire King was former Governor Paul Patton, who championed higher education reform in 1997 and now serves on the CPE. "This man has the background, the academic knowledge of the way the academy works, the political skills to get all of the institutions working together, to work with the governor, to work with the legislature, to pursue the goals of House Bill 1. I could not be more enthusiastic."
Also applauding King's hiring is Governor Beshear. "I feel very good about the process that the CPE went through and the search that they went through to find a nationally qualified person for this job. And from everything I know about Mr. King and his background, he certainly meets the statutory requirements that we look for in the head of the CPE."
Senate budget chairman Charlie Borders says he doesn't yet know much about King, but hopes he'll be a strong leader who opposes political interference with CPE affairs. "Who can sit down with the administration, sit down with the legislature and convince them that they have a direction that's good for the Council on the Postsecondary Education and lead this state."
By law, the CPE president must make more than the highest paid public university president, which is 352-thousand dollars. King's contract includes an annual salary of 360-thousand dollars, 40-thousand dollars for housing and a car. King, who has a law degree from Vanderbilt University, has been married for 32-years. He and his wife, Karen, have four grown children.